We need a treaty to phase out fossil fuels
A focus on limiting fossil fuel emissions – not production – has allowed countries and firms to claim climate leadership while supporting new coal, oil and gas projects, writes Simon Kofe, Tuvalu’s Minister of Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs, for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Worries and whispers in Vietnam’s NGO community after activist’s sentencing
The imprisonment of high-profile Vietnamese environmental activist Nguy Thi Khanh has had a chilling effect across the country’s NGO community. One NGO is considering closing down while others declined to comment anonymously, writes Mongabay.
‘Fake consent’ obtained for destroying forest for Adani’s Talabira coal mines
The people of Talabira argue that, despite laws designed to protect the rights of forest dwellers, their consent to the loss of their forests was faked, writes Ayaskant Das in Adani Watch.
Company announces “pause” on Papua New Guinea’s first coal plant: Mayur Resources, an Australian-based company, has decided to “pause” its proposed 52.5 MW coal plant at Lae in Papua New Guinea and focus instead on renewables to power its projects. The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air estimated the coal plant would cause 30 premature deaths and 890 years of lives lost over the plant’s 30-year life. The Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights, a PNG NGO, welcomed the company’s announcement but called on it to abandon the power plant project and rule out the use of coal in its proposed cement and limestone plant. (Loop, Mayur Resources)
Pacific Islands Forum seeks UN backing for ruling on climate change: The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), a collaborative body of 18 members comprising Pacific island nations plus Australia and New Zealand, has called on the United Nations General Assembly to back a resolution requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice “on the obligations of states under international law to protect the rights of present and future generations against the adverse impacts of climate change.” The PIF hopes to gain majority support for the proposal at the United Nations General Assembly in September. It said it wants to be closely involved in developing the specific question “to ensure maximum impact in terms of limiting emissions to 1.5 degrees, including obligations of all major emitters past, present and future.” The Chair of the PIF, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, said, “we need to end our fossil fuel addiction, including coal”, a comment seen as directed at Australia. (International Business Times, Pacific Islands Forum)
Democratic Senator blocks Biden’s plan for new climate legislation: Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who holds a crucial swing vote in the US Senate, has ruled out support for any new climate legislation put forward by President Biden, pointing to the rate of inflation as justification for his position. In December 2021, Manchin rejected the “Build Back Better Act”, claiming it would “risk the reliability of our electric grid” and boost renewables deployment “at a rate that is faster than technology or the markets allow.” President Biden hoped that Manchin could be encouraged to support a narrower US$500 billion package but is now left to rely on administrative measures. Environmental groups argue that the Biden Administration has existing regulations and powers that can be used to accelerate the energy transition, including forcing coal power plants to clean up and close down. (Guardian, New Yorker, High Country News, Sierra Club)
Arrests over contracts at South African coal plant: Two former employees of the Swiss-based engineering services company ABB, Mohammed Mooidheen and Vernon Pillay, have been arrested on charges over subcontracts awarded to Impulse International for work on the 4800 MW Kusile coal plant. The two have been accused of receiving 8.6 million rand (US$502,000) in cash and luxury vehicles in return for awarding a 550 million rand (US$32.1 million) contract to Impulse. ABB was contracted to provide the control systems for the six 800 MW units at the plant. In December 2020, ABB announced it had reached a settlement with South Africa’s Special Investigating Unit and agreed to repay approximately US$104 million. Eskom stated it hopes “more arrests will follow on this matter” and noted ABB had voluntarily disclosed “collusion with certain Eskom officials”. The two former ABB officials have been granted bail and are due to return to court on October 14, 2022. (BusinessLive/Bloomberg, Mail & Guardian, Eskom)
Court hearing over South African mine rehabilitation funds delayed: The cases brought by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) against the former Deputy Director General of the Department of Mineral Resources, Joel Raphela, and two others have been deferred until November 1. Raphela, Ronica Ragavan, the Director of Tegeta Exploration and Resources and Pushpaveni Govender, the former trustee of Optimum Coal Mine, were arrested in May. The three face 11 charges relating to the alleged illegal use of 107.5 million rand (US$6.28 million) set aside for the rehabilitation of the Optimum and Koornfontein coal mines. The NPA alleges the funds were approved to be transferred to other company accounts in breach of the Department of Mineral Resources’ rules. (TimesLive, The Citizen, News24)
Glencore pushed to expand Australian mine with high methane levels: A Glencore application for a coal exploration permit adjoining its current Hail Creek mine, submitted in June 2020, makes no mention of the likely methane emissions from the site. In 2018 Glencore bought Rio Tinto’s majority share in the Hail Creek mine, with internal documents from 2014 revealing the high methane content of the seam was well known. French company Kayrros recently estimated that every tonne of coal produced from the Hail Creek mine emitted 7.5 kilograms of methane, about 40 per cent higher than global levels. Glencore estimates methane emissions from the mine at between 6000 and 18,000 tonnes of methane. Scientists at the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research estimated the mine emitted between 123,000 and 263,000 tonnes of methane in 2021. Glencore said it has “concerns and questions” about using satellite data to measure methane and has committed to a 15 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2026 and a 50 per cent cut by 2035, from 2019 levels. (Bloomberg, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility)
No environmental impact statement required for new Queensland mine: Environmentalists have expressed alarm that Vitrinite’s proposed Vulcan South coal mine In Queensland will not be subject to environmental impact assessment, despite planning to clear 1023 hectares of koala habitat. The company is proposing to produce 1.95 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of coal, just below the two Mtpa threshold that would trigger the environmental impact statement (EIS) requirement under Queensland law. The Mackay Conservation Group has called on the Queensland Minister for Environment to scrap the 2 Mtpa threshold and compel Vitrinite to submit an EIS. Vitrinite has also gained approval for the 1.95 Mtpa Vulcan mine adjoining the Vulcan South project. (Guardian)
Indian state pushes three new coal units: The Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, has announced his support for adding two 660 MW coal units at the Chhabra 2320 MW coal plant and a new 800 MW unit at the Kalisindh power project. The plants are operated by Rajasthan RV Utpadan Nigam (RUVN), a utility owned by the Rajasthan government. RVUN initially proposed two additional 660 MW units at the Kalisindh plant in 2013, but the project didn’t proceed. (Economic Times)
“If coal mining companies continue to argue that fugitive methane management is too hard for open-cut coal mines, then the obvious and material solution is to cease opening new mines. And for the known very gassy mines to seriously consider early closure options,”
said Naomi Hogan from the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility.
Australia: Proposed Gemini mine near National Parks, farms and tourism businesses keeps neighbours on edge.
Canada: Environmental assessment to resume on Glencore’s proposed Sukunka metallurgical coal project in British Columbia.
Canada: Kameron Coal advertises jobs for the Donkin mine even though it doesn’t have provincial approval to reopen the project. The mine was closed in March 2020 after a dozen roof failures.
Colombia: Indigenous Wayuu leader calls on the Electricity Supply Board to end importing coal from Glencore’s Cerrejon mine in Colombia.
Germany: Coal supply to Gkm’s Mannheim and EnBW’s Karlsruhe plant has been disrupted by low water levels on the Rhine River, limiting barge traffic.
India: The Central Bureau of Investigation has filed charges against 41 people and named 22 companies over alleged illegal coal mining and trading in West Bengal.
India: Supreme Court to hear legal challenge cancellation of coal block allocation in Chhattisgarh to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited and mining operations by Adani.
US: Senator Elizabeth Warren has requested the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency require cryptocurrency mining companies to disclose their energy use and emissions.
New data reveals renewables costs outshine fossil fuels: A report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates the cost of electricity compared to 2020 from onshore wind fell by 15 per cent to US0.033/kilowatt hour (Kwh). IRENA estimates the price of offshore wind power fell by 13 per cent to 0.048/kWh and solar PV by 13 per cent to US0.075/kWh over the same period. IRENA estimates almost two-thirds of new renewable capacity commissioned in 2021 had lower costs than the cheapest coal-fired option in the G20 countries. IRENA estimates the marginal cost of coal-fired generation ranges in 2022 from a low of US$77 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in China to a high of US$127/MWh in India. (Reuters, International Renewable Energy Agency, International Renewable Energy Agency [Pdf])
Study argues German energy transition set to accelerate: A study by the financial services firm Allianz Trade estimates increased short-term coal generation in Germany will not result in increased carbon dioxide emissions in the European Union (EU). Allianz Trade argues that increased coal generation will increase carbon dioxide prices in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme. It argues that for coal generation to be competitive CO2 emissions prices need to be below €60 per tonne (US$61 per tonne). The EU carbon price currently fluctuates between €80-90 per tonne (US$81-91 per tonne). Germany’s new energy plan is to increase renewable generation from the current target of 65 per cent by 2030 to 80 per cent. Renewables currently account for 42 per cent of generation. The report estimates onshore and offshore wind generation capacity would need to increase to 160,000 MW and 60,000 MW from 54,000 MW and 8000 MW in 2020, respectively by 2035 to safely achieve the target. The study projects solar capacity would need to increase from 54,000 MW in 2020 to over 300,000 MW by 2035. (Reuters, Allianz Trade)
Standard Chartered decides to dump Adaro over thermal coal: Standard Chartered, a major UK-headquartered bank, has confirmed in an email to Market Forces that it will end its investment in PT Adaro Indonesia as the company is “100 per cent dependent on thermal coal”. Adaro is the second largest coal producer in Indonesia and aims to produce between 58 and 60 million tonnes in 2022. Under the terms of its climate policy, Standard Chartered vowed it will not provide financial support to companies building with revenue from thermal coal of over 80 per cent by 2024. In 2021 Adaro earned 96 per cent of its revenue from coal. Market Forces said other banks, including HSBC, SMBC, Mizuho, OCBC, and CIMB, continue to finance Adaro despite their sustainability and coal exclusion policies. (Market Forces)
Lignite plant in Bosnia Herzegovina edges closer to cancellation: Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Minister of Energy, Mining and Industry, Nermin Dzindic, wants the government-owned power utility Elektroprivreda BiH (EPBiH) to rule out searching for another contractor to provide engineering, purchase and construction services for the proposed 450 MW unit 7 at the Tuzla plant. The State Aid Council of BiH recently stated government support for the Tuzla 7 project would be illegal. A year ago, General Electric announced it had withdrawn from the project, and in September 2021, the Chinese Government announced it would not finance new overseas coal units. Pippa Gallop from CEE Bankwatch Network said it “is now a matter of formalities” that the project will be terminated. (Balkan Green Energy News, Exit News)
Storms and floods disrupt New South Wales coal railways: The Hunter Valley railway network to Newcastle, the world’s largest thermal coal export port, has reopened after being closed for nine days due to flooding. The extreme weather system also resulted in the anchorage for coal ships being closed for almost two weeks due to heavy swells and high winds, resulting in the queue of coal ships increasing to 42. Heavy rainfall associated with the weather system also caused a landslide disrupting coal cargoes being transported to Port Kembla, with repairs unlikely to be completed until September. The Blue Mountains rail line, which mainly caters for coal shipments from Banpu subsidiary Centennial Coal’s Springvale, Airly and Clarence mines to be moved to Newcastle and Port Kembla, has also been closed by a landslide and is likely to remain closed for several weeks. (Argus)
Devaluation hits Indian coal prices as Coal India cancels coal tender: The depreciation of the Indian rupee against the US dollar will further increase the costs of imported coal for some power utilities. As many coal contracts are in US dollars and electricity is sold in rupees, power generators reliant on imported coal will face increased financial pressure. NTPC, the Indian-government-owned utility which generates about 25 per cent of the country’s electricity, recently issued a contract in rupees to Adani Enterprises for 6.25 million tonnes of imported coal, placing the financial risk on Adani. In a separate development, Coal India cancelled a short-term coal supply contract awarded to Adani for 2.4 million tonnes of imported coal. Instead, it awarded a contract to the Indonesian company PT Bara Daya Energy, which offered coal at 2000 rupees per tonne (US$34.5 per tonne) lower. (Financial Express, Business Standard)
South Korean insurers fail to dump coal: Solutions for Our Climate (SFOC), a Korean NGO, has criticised the failure of Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance and Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance to phase out existing coal insurance contracts. The two companies last year ruled out insuring new coal projects but have not upgraded the policies in their annual environment, social and governance reports released last week. SFOC said that in 2021 Samsung FMI and Hyundai MFI provided US$13.3 billion and US$9.4 billion of insurance coverage for coal plants. “If Samsung FMI and Hyundai MFI, the largest general insurers in South Korea, can effectively pull the plug on coal, other insurers will surely follow,” said Sooyoun Ha from SFOC. (Insurance Business Asia)
Circles of a Coal Empire, Greenpeace Bulgaria, July 2022. (The 20-page report, in Bulgarian, is here [Pdf].)
The Bulgarian businessman, Hristo Kovachki, has built a network of coal and other energy companies which stand to be major beneficiaries of European Union funding for a transition away from coal.