April 20, 2023
Issue 462  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

The decision by Denmark to join the group of countries determined to leave the Energy Charter Treaty is the latest move to unravel a treaty now predominantly used to frustrate climate policy changes. Another welcome move was the UK House of Lords’ vote favouring a ban on new coal mines. The UK House of Commons can overturn the Lords’ amendment to energy legislation. Still, the debate highlights the breadth of the opposition to the government’s recent approval of the Whitehaven metallurgical coal mine. The vote was in contrast to the failure of the G7 to make significant progress on accelerating the phasing out of coal generation. The also G7 gave a qualified endorsement to Japan’s controversial push to use hydrogen and ammonia as crucial elements of its decarbonisation strategy.

A new report by Global Energy Monitor highlights 393 new coal mining projects that are still under consideration worldwide. Some are in Colombia, where civil society groups are campaigning to block new projects. This week the recently elected Colombian President, Gustavo Petro, highlighted the need for Latin American countries to end their reliance on fossil fuel revenues.

Three new studies highlight other interesting news. A US study notes that viral social media posts on divestment can significantly impact named companies. The annual cost of energy study by the US financial services firm Lazard notes how the best renewables projects continue to get cheaper than fossil fuel projects. Finally, a study on pollution inspections by Chinese central government regulators found the deepest emissions cuts were closest to the checks. Pollution subsequently rebounded, albeit not to previous high points.

Bob Burton


Coal returns to the China–Pakistan Economic corridor

Progress towards building a 300 megawatt (MW) coal power plant in the port city of Gwadar raises questions about the climate pledges of both China and Pakistan, writes Zofeen T Ebrahim in China Dialogue.

Modi government allowed an Adani-run mine to expand even when it hadn’t run out of coal

The Modi government greenlighted the clearance of about 3000 acres of forest land in Chhattisgarh to expand a coal mine operated by the Adani Group despite a government-funded study finding millions of tonnes of coal remaining unextracted in the existing mine, writes Arunabh Saikia in The Scroll.

Top News

UK House of Lords votes for ban on new coal mines: The House of Lords has narrowly voted 197-194 in favour of an amendment to the government’s Energy Bill banning the opening of new coal mines and preventing the Coal Authority from licensing them. The House of Commons can overturn the ban which would require the government to table an amendment to its own bill. The Lords’ vote follows the decision by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, granting planning permission in December 2022 for West Cumbria Mining’s proposed Whitehaven metallurgical coal mine. The Lords’ vote comes as the UK High Court rejected an initial request by Friends of the Earth and South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) to appeal Gove’s decision.  The groups have requested a hearing seeking to persuade the court to hear the appeal. Friends of the Earth said that such challenges often succeed”. (Guardian, BBC, Friends of the Earth)

Denmark backs exit from European Energy Charter Treaty: Denmark has joined a group of European Union member countries seeking to leave the Energy Charter Treaty, an agreement ratified in 1994 that allows member governments to be sued over policy changes companies claim adversely affected investments. RWE currently has a case under the treaty against the Netherlands over its 2030 end date for coal generation. The European Commission had proposed changes, including a 10-year window for legal actions over climate policies. But Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands rejected the changes and have announced their intention to leave the treaty over the threat it poses to governments over new climate policies. Other countries are likely to follow with the European Parliament voting for a coordinated withdrawal from the treaty. The ECT includes a provision that allows companies to sue governments for up to 20 years after they leave the pact. Lukas Schaugg from the International Institute for Sustainable Development thinks this could be neutralised by creating a new agreement after countries leave the treaty. (Deutsche Welle)

Colombian President warns against coal dependency; NGOs highlight proposed mines: A report by Global Energy Monitor has revealed that Colombian coal production would climb if three major coal mines proposed by the Best Coal Company (BCC) are approved and if projects previously operated by Prodeco are restarted. BCC, a Colombian subsidiary of the Turkish multinational Yildirim, has proposed the San Juan, Canaverales and Papayal mines that have a combined capacity of about 32 million tonnes annually. Prodeco’s former projects could produce another 15 to 20 million tonnes annually. The mines could emit 216,000 tonnes a year of methane, about 6.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Colombian coal production has been affected in the last few years by declining European and US demand and the high transport cost to the Asian market. Colombian civil society groups have opposed the new projects and highlighted the lack of transparency about BCC’s proposals. Speaking at Stanford University, the Colombian President, Gustavo Petro, said it would be a mistake for Latin American countries to rely on revenue from coal and oil. “It is a huge economic mistake because humanity has to give up oil and coal. To depend exclusively on that is to depend on a thread that is going to break,” he said. (Global Energy Monitor, California18)

Global coal mine capacity increased in 2022: Updated data published by Global Energy Monitor reveals that about 895 million tonnes of proposed coal mine capacity have either been scrapped since 2021 or gone unreported over the last two to four years. The cancelled and stalled capacity represents almost 40 per cent of new mine projects and expansions proposed since 2021. The disruption of the global energy markets in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the spike in international coal prices spurred a revival in coal projects proposed by state-owned and small private firms, especially in China and India. About 555 million tonnes of new capacity was brought online in 2022. The Global Coal Mine Tracker update reveals that 393 new coal mining projects with a combined production capacity of 1.8 billion tonnes of coal a year remain on the books. (Global Energy Monitor)

G7 baulks at embracing 2030 coal end-date: Canada, the UK and France unsuccessfully sought G7 support for a commitment to phase out unabated coal power by 2030, but Japan, the US and the European Union opposed this. Instead, the final G7 communique restated last year’s commitment to achieving a “predominantly” decarbonised domestic electricity sector by 2035 and phasing out coal plants without carbon capture and storage by 2050. The communique also provided qualified support for Japan’s push to pursue the development of ammonia co-firing of coal plants “if this can be aligned with a 1.5°C pathway.” The G7 group of countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, US and the European Union – endorsed increasing offshore wind capacity to 150,000 MW and solar capacity to 1 terawatt by 2030. (Climate Home News, Reuters, G7 Communique)

Fifty arrested over Australian coal train protest: Fifty people were arrested after blocking a coal train heading to the Port of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. About 20 people climbed onto the top of the railway wagons and began shovelling coal out, with the remainder providing support inside the rail corridor. Environment NGO Lock the Gate said the recently elected New South Wales Labor government is set to consider up to eight new coal projects or mine expansion applications this year. If the projects are approved, the estimated greenhouse gas emissions from production and use are more than 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Newcastle is the world’s largest thermal coal export centre. (Guardian)

Report reveals the same US utilities continue to oppose pollution reforms: A report by the Influence Map finds that major US power utilities and lobby groups that have long opposed moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions are pushing for compliance exemptions for coal plants due to retire. They are also opposing stricter regulation of climate pollution. In September 2022, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began public consultation on options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal and gas plants and proposed new gas plants. Southern Company, which spent US$7.2 billion on the failed Kemper Carbon Capture and Storage plant, has argued against imposing more ambitious limits on existing coal plants. The Power Generators Air Coalition, which includes American Electric Power, DTE Energy, and Vistra Corporation as members, has argued for multiple exemptions for existing fossil fuel plants. Influence Map says that the advocacy efforts of these utilities and lobby groups are a continuation of opposition to the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan between 2014 and 2019. (InfluenceMap)

Study finds pollution inspections of Chinese coal plants impact fades: A study by Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers found that central government inspections of Chinese coal power plants to check compliance with sulphur dioxide emissions limits had only a short-term effect. The study found that emissions fell by between 25 and 52 per cent during the one-month-long period of inspections compared to uninspected regions. The study, which selected the impact of checks during the air pollution crisis of 2016 and 2017, found emissions rebounded once reviews were over to between 54 per cent and 62 per cent of the pre-inspection baseline level. The study found emissions recovered more quickly after inspections at state-owned plants overseen by the central government compared to state-owned plants monitored by the local government. The paper suggests the change in emissions at plants overseen by the central government appeared to be due to the operation of pollution control equipment. In contrast, plants monitored by the local government may have reduced generation levels. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)


Australia: Tigers Realm Coal has been informed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that its Russian coal mine is likely to be in breach of trade sanctions. The company is considering whether to apply for an exemption.

Australia: Former NSW Labor MP Eddie Obeid, his son Moses, and ex-Minister for Resources, Ian Macdonald, have appealed against their conviction over a Bylong Valley coal licence.

India: Tribal delegation protests the decision of West Bengal Power Development Corporation to proceed with a new coal mine in Birbhum district before gaining forest and environmental approvals.

Companies + Markets

Study finds divestment tweets hit companies hard: Research by academics has found that fossil fuel divestment commitments by foundations, sovereign wealth funds and trusts disproportionately impact the company’s market value. The study by academics from Solvay Brussels School of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics and Harvard Law School argues that a viral social media post promoting divestment had a significant impact as it increased reputation and regulatory risk for high carbon emitters. The authors argue this spurred additional divestment “by rational risk-averse investors” that don’t necessarily have an objection to fossil fuel investments. The study found that the share price of companies included in the Carbon Underground 200 list fell by about one per cent in the days after a viral divestment tweet. The study estimated that this fall was worth about US$1.5 billion per company over three days. (Financial Times, Social Science Research Network [Pdf])

US analyst notes renewables keep getting cheaper: A new report by the US-based financial services firm Lazard estimates the unsubsidised cost of the cheapest new utility-scale solar and onshore wind projects with storage is about US$46 and US$42 per megawatt-hour (MWh), respectively. The firm estimates that the midpoint of the unsubsidized marginal cost of operating a fully depreciated coal plant in the US is US$52 per MW/h. While noting little data is available on new coal plants, Lazard estimates coal power would cost between US$68 per MWh up to US$166 per MWh for a project with 90 per cent carbon capture and storage but excluding the cost of transportation and storage. Lazard estimates the range of US utility-scale solar is between US$24 per MWh to US$96 per MWh, onshore wind US$24 per MWh to US$75 per MWh and offshore wind US$72 per MWh and US$140 per MWh. The firm did not estimate the cost of power from small modular reactors as there is a “limited public and/or observable data set available” to review. (PV Magazine, Lazard [Pdf])

Japan’s ammonia push criticised ahead of G7 summit: Ahead of hosting the G7 meeting of climate and energy ministers in Sapporo, Japan’s promotion of co-firing coal plants with ammonia was criticised as counter-productive and not consistent with a 2050 net zero emissions target for the power sector. Transition Zero, a climate policy think tank, argues that co-firing ammonia could be worse for the environment than burning coal due to the “very high embedded upstream emissions and energy losses” from hydrogen and ammonia production. The group estimates a coal power plant that used ammonia as 20 per cent of its fuel would emit 94 per cent more carbon dioxide than the average unabated gas plant in Malaysia, 77 per cent more in Thailand, 60 per cent more in the Philippines, and 44 per cent more in Indonesia. A draft of the G7 communique referred to ammonia co-firing as an “effective emission reduction” technology, language that drew protests from the UK and Canada. Transition Zero argues that the cost of adapting coal plants to burn 20 per cent or even 50 per cent ammonia is up to four times more expensive than using solar or wind as an alternative to coal in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. (Financial Times, Transition Zero)

Adviser urges vote against Teck split as Glencore shifts policy: The proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services has recommended investors reject Teck Resources’ proposal to spin off its metallurgical coal division due to “uncertainties and structural issues associated with the proposal.” Shareholders will vote on Teck Resources’ proposal at an April 26 meeting in Vancouver. Glencore, the world’s largest coal exporter, has offered US$23 billion to merge the two companies and spin-off both their coal assets into a new company. Teck Resources has rejected the offer, but market analysts expect Glencore could increase its bid by US$2-3 billion to counter criticisms that it is undervaluing the coal projects. UK analysts view Glencore’s willingness to spin off its coal projects as a major U-turn on its previous insistence that the most responsible climate policy was to retain rather than divest coal assets. Tim Buckley from Climate Energy Finance said Glencore’s support to spin off joint assets could be a vehicle “to prolong the life [of coal] and ignore the inevitable continued rise of mainstream investor environment, social and governance pressures”. (Mining.com, Financial Times)

Report finds Chinese banks dominated coal lending in 2022: A report published by the Rainforest Action Network and a coalition of NGOs reveals that Chinese banks dominated the top ten lenders for coal mining and coal power projects in 2022. The report estimates that 97 per cent of the financing for the largest 30 companies in coal power came from Chinese banks. The report notes that none of the 13 Chinese banks reviewed has any coal financing restrictions at the corporate level. The Bank of China, Ping An Group, and Postal Savings Bank of China exclude financing international coal projects but not domestic projects. The report notes that in 2022 only two banks adopted new coal lending restrictions for existing clients and only one bank extended restrictions for new clients. The three largest lenders for coal mining projects were China Citic Bank, China Everbright Bank and Industrial Bank, which provided US$6.2 billion for new coal mines. The three largest lenders for coal power projects were China Merchants Bank, China Citic Bank, and China Construction Bank, with US$10.35 billion lent in 2022. (Rainforest Action Network [Pdf])

Indian power demand climbs, NTPC planning coal plant surge: The Central Electricity Authority estimates that for the 2022-23 financial year to the end of March, Indian electricity demand grew by 9.5 per cent. The highest peak demand on a day hit 207,230 MW, up from 200,530 MW the year before. The Ministry of Power has forecast peak demand to grow to 229,000 MW this summer, with some analysts estimating that power demand growth this year could be over 10 per cent. The high rate of power demand growth and peak demand is one of the major drivers behind the Indian government’s push to expand mine production and commission stranded coal plants. NTPC, which generates about one-quarter of India’s electricity, is pressing ahead with significant expansions with a combined capacity of 10,640 MW at eight coal plants. NTPC has previously committed to generating half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2032. (Economic Times, Financial Express)

South African President leaves powers of pro-coal energy minister intact: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has retreated on a plan to move the responsibility for emergency power procurement from the Minister for Energy, Gwede Mantashe, to the recently appointed Minister for Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. Mantashe, a trenchant critic of renewables and supporter of new coal projects, will retain responsibility for contracts issued for independent power projects. With significant delays in auctions for independent power project capacity under Mantashe, load shedding has worsened significantly. Mantashe had also inaccurately claimed private companies had little interest in building projects. Eskom recently revealed that private power projects have proposed projects with a combined capacity of 14,337 MW and are seeking access to the grid. Both Ramokgopa and Mantashe have extolled the prospect of extending the life of existing coal plants and the need for ‘baseload’ power. (Mail & Guardian, News24)

US bank pushing outright opposition to climate resolutions: JPMorgan Chase, one of the largest banks supporting fossil fuel projects and companies, is opposing a resolution by the New York Comptroller, which manages significant pension funds, to set a science-based emissions reduction pathway to achieve the bank’s net-zero by 2050 target and its goal of reducing the “emissions intensity” of the oil, gas and power sectors by 2030. JPMorgan Chase’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Jamie Dimon, wants shareholders to reject the proposal, stating the bank will release details later this year about its plans. The bank also opposes a resolution submitted by the Sierra Club proposing the bank phase out lending and underwriting to new fossil fuel exploration or development projects. JPMorgan Chase continues to fund coal projects and has lent over US$3.58 billion for coal mines and power plants between 2016 and 2022. The Rainforest Action Network has ranked JPMorgan the worst bank overall in 2022 due to its significant support for coal, oil and gas projects since the Paris Agreement. (BNNBloomberg)


Science Museum Group: an unravelling tragedy, Fossil Free Science Museum, April 2023. (Pdf)

This 50-page online flip-book concisely documents the controversies over Adani projects from Indonesia, India and Australia and argues the Science Museum Group in the UK should cancel its sponsorship deal with the company.

“Indonesia dances around taxonomies to mobilize capital for its coal phaseout programs”, Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, April 18, 2023.

This article reviews the latest version of ASEAN’s Taxonomy for Sustainable Finance that proposes classifying financing coal plants as included in the “green” category and suitable for responsible investors.

Adani in South Asia: power, politics and diplomacy in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, HimalSouthasian, April 2023. (YouTube) (The session recording is also available on SoundcloudApple Podcasts and Spotify.)

A 2-hour panel discussion which covers the activities of Adani in the South Asian region, specifically India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar.