The United States said Tuesday it would end most financing of coal projects overseas, taking a potentially significant step to curbing carbon emissions blamed for climate change.
The decision puts into action a pledge in June by President Barack Obama to pursue more climate-friendly development policies. The World Bank, where the United States holds the most voting power, also stated after Obama's pledge that it would stop most financing for coal, among the dirtiest forms of energy.
The Treasury Department said it would end support for coal plants by the World Bank and other international development institutions unless the projects involve new carbon-capture measures or if there is no other economically feasible option in one of the world's poorest countries.
Lael Brainard, the Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, said that the Obama administration's decision marked an "important step" in supporting cleaner energy.
"By encouraging the use of clean energy in multilateral development bank projects, we are furthering US efforts to address the urgent challenges of climate change," she said in a statement.
The Treasury Department said that the United States would work with other countries to institute similar policies. On a visit to Stockholm last month, Obama agreed with the leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden that none of the countries would fund coal projects.
The effort comes amid forecasts that the world must do more to achieve a UN-supported goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in a report last month of destructive effects from warming, including floods, droughts and rising seas.
But major economies including the United States, China and India face political pressure against curbing coal use as industry groups warn of job losses or rising electricity bills.
Obama has used executive authority to limit carbon emissions from new power plants at home, despite fierce opposition from the rival Republican Party.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]