How Egypt doubled down on fossil fuels by stifling dissent
The history of Egypt’s fierce domestic activism against coal should also be a point of sober reflection for diplomatic delegations at COP27, write Tirana Hassan and Richard Pearshouse from Human Rights Watch in Foreign Policy.
Vietnam’s draft power plan favours coal, but who will pay?
The latest draft of Vietnam’s national power development plan foresees significant new coal power investment despite uncertainty over financing, writes Linh Pham in China Dialogue.
US colleges talk green but have a dirty secret
Major US universities such as Harvard, Dartmouth and New York University stress their green credentials. They also use some of the dirtiest fuels to power their campuses and crank out carbon dioxide or smog-forming gases at higher rates than the typical commercial power plant, write Tim McLaughlin and M. B. Pell in Reuters.
Study finds fewer countries considering new coal plants: A review of proposed coal plants by E3G has found that there are now no proposed new coal projects in the 27 European Union countries and 16 countries with only one project in the pipeline. The report finds that of the 34 countries that still have proposed new coal projects, 25 have seen a decline in the number of projects since June 2021. The report found that 73 new coal power projects were proposed in the last year, with China accounting for 48 of the total or 66 per cent of all new pre-construction capacity. China’s share of proposed new capacity has been increasing each year as other countries’ retreat from coal generation accelerates. China now has 197,000 megawatts (MW) of proposed new coal plants in the pre-construction phase, an increase of 13,000 MW over the last year. (E3G)
Indian coal expansion plans hit forests and tribal communities: Days before India’s delegation flew to the global climate talk in Egypt, the Minister for Finance, Nirmala Sitharaman, said at the launch of an auction of 141 coal blocks that “India needs greater investment in coal production.” It is estimated that two-thirds of the 968 coal blocks offered for auction since 2020 overlap with large areas of India’s ecologically important forests and lands occupied by tribal communities. The Indian Government’s push to increase coal production to one billion tonnes a year is likely to affect air quality and water availability profoundly. “India does not need more coal. There is no financial or energy requirement for new coal construction in India, this is all political,” said Ashish Fernandes, the chief executive officer of Climate Risk Horizons. (Guardian)
Climate talks wrangle over coal and other fossil fuels: India has objected to the “selective singling out” of coal in the communique at the global climate talks in Egypt. Instead, India has proposed the statement referring to phasing out all fossil fuels, a move seen variously as providing cover for the continued domestic expansion of coal and increasing pressure on developed countries and the European Union in particular over their support for gas. An early draft of the critical points for the outcome of the negotiations in Egypt over the last two weeks currently does not refer to coal or fossil fuels. At the Glasgow talks, India and China insisted the draft text be amended to refer to a phase-down of unabated coal generation rather than a commitment to phasing it out. Over the last two years, India has pushed for a significant expansion of domestic coal production and the revival of stalled coal power plants. Indian gas production has been declining over the last decade. The EU has said it will support a commitment to phasing down fossil fuels if it is additional to the commitments agreed to at the Glasgow negotiations. (Argus, Guardian, RTE)
US Republican Party’s hope of electoral landslide evaporates: The Republican Party’s hope of winning control of both houses of Congress has faded, with the Democrats retaining 50 seats in the Senate. A run-off election in Georgia on December 6 could further boost the Democrats standing and diminish the power of the pro-coal West Virginia Democrat Senator, Joe Manchin. The Republicans are on track to win a narrow majority in the 435-seat House of Representatives. The result removes the prospect that the Republicans could reverse climate and other policy gains but ends any further Democratic climate legislation until after the 2024 election. In the campaign for Mayor of Oakland, Ignacio De La Fuente has run a distant third behind Loren Taylor and Sheng Thao, both of whom have signed a pledge to oppose a proposed coal export terminal. De La Fuente drew support from a third-party group that received US$550,000 from backers of the project. (Guardian, Sierra Club)
Turkish mine disaster investigation blames negligence: A Turkish police investigation into the October 14 methane explosion that killed 42 workers at the Amasra mine attributes the accident to a “chain of negligence”. The 240-page report, seen by the AFP news agency, states methane concentrations in the state-run Turkish Hard Coal Institution’s mine exceeded the one per cent warning threshold 85 times on the day of the accident. The mine was supposed to be evacuated if concentrations exceeded two per cent. Methane is explosive between 5 and 17 per cent. The report also referred to frequent rule violations, poor supervision and poor occupational health and safety. The report flagged that a contributing factor to the explosion may have been a faulty ventilation system. A new ventilation system was due to be installed in March, but the supplier was granted an extension until November 6. (Alarabiya News)
Queensland Govt approves six coal projects without public assessment: At least eight coal mining projects in catchments and floodplains flowing into the Great Barrier Reef have been exempted from requiring environmental impact statements (EIS) because it is proposed they would produce less than two million tonnes of coal a year. Six of the projects have been granted state environmental approval. The Environmental Defenders Office estimates at least seven of the projects will require federal approval but has warned that the public may be excluded from input on the terms of reference. A coalition of environment groups pressing the government to require all projects to be subject to an EIS estimates the eight projects represent approximately 1.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions across their lifespans. (Guardian)
“If nothing is done, emissions from existing coal assets would, by themselves, tip the world across the 1.5°C limit,”
states the International Energy Agency.
Australia: Activists and groups criticising Adani have been targeted by Twitter accounts belonging to people who do not exist.
Australia: The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has banned a Panamanian-registered coal carrier, the Costanza, from Australian ports for three months after discovering the crew had been underpaid A$108,000 (US$72,114) in wages.
Australia: Lock the Gate calls for an independent investigation into elevated levels of cyanide and benzene in groundwater outside the site of Linc Energy’s now abandoned underground coal gasification project.
Bangladesh: A ship carrying 850 tonnes of coal for the Rampal power plant was damaged after grounding in the Poshur River.
Colombia: Former mine workers block coal railway from Glencore’s Cerrejon mine demanding their jobs back.
Russia: Two Russian coal barons on the European sanction list, Oleg Deripaska and Andrey Melnichenko will attend the COP 27 climate conference.
US: Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has revived his proposed permitting changes for fossil fuel projects and transmission lines.
IEA flags the need for a just transition for coal-dependent countries: A new International Energy Agency (IEA) report estimates global coal use would drop by 90 per cent by 2050 in its Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. The scenario estimates the power sector will be decarbonised entirely in advanced economies by 2035 and worldwide by 2040. The report argues that the economic competitiveness of renewables means that a transition away from coal power would result in lower average costs between now and 2050 in all countries. The report notes that with coal production heavily concentrated in key countries, governments need to develop and implement specific just transition strategies. The IEA says that countries where “coal dependency is high and transitions are likely to be most challenging” are Indonesia, Mongolia, China, Vietnam, India and South Africa. (Power Engineering, International Energy Agency)
Indonesian commits to cap power sector emissions by 2030: The US, Japan and a coalition of other countries will facilitate a package of US$20 billion in grants and concessional loans for Indonesia based on power sector emissions peaking at 290 million tonnes by 2030. Indonesia has agreed to double the deployment of renewables to reach 34 per cent of electricity generation by 2030, up from the target of 23 per cent in its current power plan. Ember, a climate policy think tank, says that for Indonesia to be on track with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 °C goal it needs to target a net zero electricity sector by 2040. The state-owned power utility, PLN, has previously flagged coal plants with a combined capacity of 6700 MW as candidates for closure. Indonesia’s Energy Transition Mechanism, a fund established to support the transition away from coal, has entered into a non-binding agreement to close the 660 MW Unit 1 at the Cirebon plant in West Java, a unit owned by a consortium of private companies. (Reuters, Ember, Bloomberg)
European Union Court of Auditors questions just transition funding: A European Court of Auditors assessment of €12.5 billion (US$16 billion) spent between 2014 and 2020 on just transition projects in seven coal regions “has had a limited impact on both jobs and energy transition”. The review considered the funding of projects in Germany, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic and Spain. The report found funding tended to be used for health and infrastructure projects that did little to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. The report noted that while funding was provided for retraining laid-off coal workers, a lack of data meant it was impossible to determine whether it helped find new jobs. The auditors noted that “insufficient attention” had been paid to projects to mitigate methane emissions from former coal mines. (Euractiv, European Court of Auditors [Pdf])
Mongolia pushes for a surge in coal exports to China: The Mongolian Government plans to boost coal exports to China as much as possible before demand declines due to increased renewables capacity and changes in steel production technology. The Deputy Minister for Mining, Batnairamdal Otgonshar, said Mongolia should “use the next 10 years to be able to export as much coal as we can.” Mongolia exported 37 million tonnes of coal to China in 2019 before border closures and restrictions due to COVID-19 measures cut volumes to a trickle. New rail links were commissioned this year and, combined with relaxed border restrictions, have increased volumes exported and cut costs. The Business Council of Mongolia says the new infrastructure could cater for coal exports of 70 million tonnes a year by 2025. The consultancy Wood Mackenzie says China’s unofficial ban on Australian coal imports has increased demand for low-sulphur coking coal from Mongolia. (France24)
Australian regulator takes no action over faked coal test results: The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has told ALS, a global laboratory services company, that it has decided against taking any enforcement action against the company or current officers and employees over falsified coal test results. In 2020, ALS confirmed that almost half of all coal export certificates issued by four Australian laboratories between 2007 and 2019 had test results manually adjusted “without justification”. ASIC is also investigating whether the coal mining company TerraCom pressured laboratories to falsify the results of coal quality tests for coal export customers. The company has rejected suggestions it had any knowledge of the falsified reports. (Australian Financial Review [paywall])
Activist investor-backed directors join board of big Australian utility: Four directors backed by Grok Ventures, a company owned by software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, have been elected to the board of AGL, Australia’s largest coal plant polluter. Grok owns just over 11 per cent of AGL but has won the backing of institutional investors disillusioned by the dramatic decline in the share value of AGL. The board of AGL, which has until recently fiercely resisted the accelerated closure of its coal plant, supported the nomination of just one of the four directors supported by Cannon-Brookes. Brookes wants AGL to close its coal plants as fast as possible. After Grok bought its stake in the company, AGL announced it would bring forward the closure of its 2215 MW Loy Yang A brown coal plant in Victoria to 2035, with the 2665 MW Bayswater plant in NSW operating until between 2030 and 2033. The 2000 MW Liddell plant in NSW is scheduled to close in April 2023. (Guardian)
Fossil Fuel Lobbyist List, Global Energy Monitor, November 2022.
This database reveals that 14,000 US companies and organizations, including many adversely affected by the climate crisis, use the services of lobbyists working for coal, oil and gas operations.