East Asian nations are biggest financiers of overseas coal plants: report

By Sen    December 26, 2018 | 10:38 am GMT+7
East Asian nations are biggest financiers of overseas coal plants: report
A Vietnamese couple hawks coal bricks in downtown Hanoi. Photo by AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam

China, Japan and South Korea, signatories to the Paris Agreement, are leading financiers of coal-fired power plants in foreign countries.

Vietnam, Bangladesh and Egypt are the primary destinations for coal-fired power plants, funded mostly by public institutions in the three East Asian countries, according to CoalSwarm’s new Global Coal Finance Tracker. The tracker allows anyone to keep track of international financial flows into coal projects.

Vietnam already has 13,020 MW of installed capacity funded by public financial institutions from the three countries, with South Korea being the most generous followed by Japan.

A typical coal-fired generating unit is 500-1,000 MW in size, and most plants have at least two generating units.

These countries’ funding has resulted in a total of 10 power plants along the northeastern and central coasts and the south of Vietnam. The data also shows Russia, Italy and India investing in coal plants in Vietnam.

"Climate change cannot be addressed as long as coal plants continue to be built," Ted Nace, executive director of CoalSwarm, said in a press release earlier this month.

Screenshot of overseas financial flows into coal-fired power plants from CoalSwarms Global Coal Financial Tracker with China, South Korea and Japan being the top three investors.

Screenshot of overseas financial flows into coal-fired power plants from CoalSwarms Global Coal Financial Tracker with China, South Korea and Japan being the top three investors.

"The database exposes a dangerous double standard, which is that China, Japan, and South Korea continue to be the largest sources of public funding for overseas coal plants, even as they transition their own economies away from coal," Nace said.

Nace told VnExpress International that China, Japan, and South Korea are doing so "in support of their industrial equipment manufacturers and construction companies" which seriously harm the global environment "in exchange for a limited amount of short-term economic gain."

"The information that we have provided is all from public sources and does not impinge on any confidentiality," Nace said.

Speaking about the likely effects these plants would have on Vietnam, he said: "The danger is that costly, dirty energy will be 'locked in' for the next 40 years, even as the rapidly falling costs of renewables such as wind and solar are already making these clean sources highly competitive."

Nace foresees an outcome where massive amounts of stranded assets will have to be decommissioned both on cost and climate grounds long before their capital costs can be recovered.

Vietnam is planning to build 26 coal power plants after 2020, but Hanoi-based nonprofit Green Innovation and Development Center (GreenID) has said 25 of them are not required.

The nation can annually save $7 billion in coal imports and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 116 million tons by removing the 25 plants from its energy master plan, experts said at a conference on energy conservation held in Hanoi in June.

China and South Korea have ratified the Paris Agreement, Japan has accepted it and Vietnam has approved it. The agreement’s central goals are to keep the global temperature rise in the 21st century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Meanwhile, Hanoi was asphyxiating in the first half of 2017 with its residents only able to inhale "acceptable" air for one and a half days every week, according to a report released by GreenID.

Air pollution is measured in terms of the concentration of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), which is discharged by vehicles, industries and natural sources like dust.

PM2.5, which is a fraction of the width of human hair, can get into the lungs and cause a number of diseases, including cancer.

Dangerous air particles cause an increasing number of deaths in Vietnam – they were 60 percent up from 26,300 in 1990 to 42,200 in 2015, according to a study by the Health Effects Institute, a U.S.-based research institute focusing on the health impacts of air pollution, and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation also in the U.S.

 
 
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