Global coalition petitions to end fossil power in Vietnam as deadly future looms

By Vi Vu   February 8, 2018 | 09:13 pm PT
Global coalition petitions to end fossil power in Vietnam as deadly future looms
A study by Harvard estimated that coal pollution will cause 19,220 premature deaths in Vietnam every year by 2030. Photo by Reuters
Coal power pollution could increase CO2 emissions in Vietnam by 20 times and doom global efforts to curb warming.

An international coalition signed a petition on Thursday to stop funding for coal-fired power development in Southeast Asia after studies found that a dramatic increase in carbon emissions could kill tens of thousands in the next decade and sabotage global warming targets.

Environmental organizations Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Walhi of Indonesia, and Vietnam’s CHANGE and GreenID filed the petition with banking-focused groups Market Forces and BankTrack to ask Singaporean banks to stop financing plants in Vietnam and Indonesia.

The request is based on a Harvard University study that found that coal pollution could cause 19,220 premature deaths in Vietnam every year by 2030. The number in Indonesia was estimated at 24,400.

CHANGE, a not-for-profit group based in Ho Chi Minh City, said in a press release that Singaporean bank DBS is supporting seven coal-fired power projects in Indonesia and Vietnam.

With a total designed capacity of 8.8 GW, the plants are going to emit 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide in their lifetime, equal to Singapore’s entire emissions in 30 years, it said.

Hoang Thi Minh Hong, director of CHANGE, said that: “Vietnam has large potential for renewable energy and that should be our future, not the outdated and polluting energy that has been dismissed by the rest of the world.”

Wind and solar power projects are starting to develop in Vietnam, but have not received much attention from businesses due to financial concerns, according to media reports.

The country used to depend heavily on hydropower power plants, which have also caused environmental controversy from time to time, but has invested more in coal-fired power in recent years.

Its coal-fuelled ambitions, however, could turn Vietnam into a culprit for the global climate change crisis.

Vietnam, China, India, Indonesia and Turkey are home to “nearly three quarters (73 percent) of the global coal-fired capacity that is currently under construction or planned,” according to a study by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin, as cited by the Washington Post on Thursday.

Vietnam could see 948 percent growth in coal emissions, an almost 20-fold increase, by 2030, if all its coal power plans are carried forward, according to the research, which used the CoalSwarm database, a project run by the Earth Island Institute which tracks coal plants across the globe, in collaboration with Greenpeace and the Sierra Club.

The study noted that the world has only about 700 billion tons of carbon dioxide to emit if it wants to hold the temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius this century as set in the Paris Agreement, of which Vietnam is a signatory.

Existing coal plants and other infrastructure are already capable of consuming 500 billion tons on their own and the new coal plants could consume another 150 billion tons, the research found.

The aim to hold warming at just 1.5 degrees Celsius seems to have no chance, it said.

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