Friday, October 19, 2018

South-east Asia power plants seen clashing with UN climate goals

[Maybe I am over-sensitive, but does the title of this news article strikes you as being overtly racist? Subtly racist? Rationalised racism? "South-east Asia" "Clashing with" "UN" --- "Those damned slant-eyes just don't understand the sacrifices THEY need to make to keep this world comfy for ALL of us!" 

Too hostile? Too passive-aggressive? Not passive enough?]

18 OCTOBER, 2018


SINGAPORE — Almost 84 per cent of South-east Asia’s planned and existing fossil fuel power plants are incompatible with future scenarios that avoid catastrophic damage from climate change, according a new study from the University of Oxford.

The report, which comes on the heels of a major United Nations-backed study of the impacts of global temperatures rising 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), is based on analysis of the amount of carbon expected to be emitted over the lifespan of the plants.

Those estimates are then compared to how much carbon can be released without the planet reaching certain temperature-increase limits.

The Oxford study underscores challenges facing policymakers in government and finance about what kind of power technologies to support, especially in South-east Asia, where developing nations are seeking to bring electricity and wealth to growing populations without exacerbating climate change.

The analysis will allow governments and investors to assess whether plants align with climate goals, said Mr Ben Caldecott, one of the study’s authors and founding director of the Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme.

“We are moving away from a situation where groups can make unsubstantiated claims about how their assets or investments are aligned with climate change mitigation or the Paris agreement,” Mr Caldecott said, referring to the 2015 accord among nearly 200 nations.

“We can now verify and evaluate such claims objectively and transparently, and this is essential if we are to move the power sector, and indeed other sectors, towards net-zero carbon emissions.”


Developing nations, particularly in Asia, have been a focus in the debate over energy and climate change.

Recent climate-friendly policy revisions by Japanese banks, among the biggest financial backers of coal power, drew scrutiny from advocacy group Market Forces, which estimated plants in Vietnam, Mongolia and Botswana that the banks support wouldn’t be eligible for financing under their new rules.

And when HSBC Holdings announced in April it would stop financing coal power plants, it included “very targeted exceptions” in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The bank has a three-year partnership with Oxford University and funds activities that support the aims of the sustainable finance program, according to Mr Zoe Knight, managing director of HSBC Centre for Sustainable Finance. Thursday’s (Oct 18) report was supported by a grant from the bank.

About 88 per cent of existing and 56 per cent of planned fossil fuel power plants, including gas-fired facilities, in South-east Asia don’t meet the emissions thresholds for keeping global temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, Mr Caldecott said.

About 18 per cent of existing and 47 per cent of planned units are incompatible with a less-stringent goal of keeping temperature rise within two degrees.

Vietnam, which has the region’s largest fleet of fossil fuel-fired assets, has almost 87 per cent of its 314 current and planned plants incompatible with a 1.5-degree scenario, according to the report. Half of the plants don’t meet the two-degree threshold and 20 per cent not even a three-degree limit.

“This highlights the scale of premature closures required to meet climate change objectives and the potential for significant asset stranding in the future,” according to the report.


[Facebook comment:
It is inevitable. Only the stupidly courageous still hope that catastrophic climate change can be averted.

Guess what? Hope is not a strategy. 
Here is what needs to happen:

  1. People have to give up cars. In SG with a COE system in place that should have dissuaded most people, our car population has still gone up. 
  2. People in developing countries have to give up electricity and stay in the dark - no electric lights, no refrigeration, no heat, no air-conditioning, no heated water, no internet access. Because, that's what this story is about - power plants generating electricity while emitting CO2. 
  3. People have to give up or reduce meat consumption. Good luck with that.
Part of the problem is that China's population is pulling themselves out of poverty and dragging themselves into the middle class. As they achieve middle-class status, they want the modern conveniences, they want the comfortable life, and they want better quality of life. And that means electricity, and better food (more meat). 
This brings us to the 4th thing that MUST NOT HAPPEN: India's population MUST NOT reach middle class status. There are about 300 million cars in China (2017 figures). There are only about 55 million in India. The number of cars in China is going to increase. It is inevitable. If India reaches middle class status, they will also likely see an increase in cars. 
India's per capita CO2 emission is about 1.6 tonnes per person currently. China's is 6.6 tonnes (2015 figures). The US's is a whopping 15.5 tonnes.

(SG's, in case you are interested, is about 8 tonnes per person. Higher than China and India. but about half of the US. Which is NOT to say that we can afford to emit more CO2!) 
So, is there anything that can be done? 
Switch completely to Solar? in 12 years? Based on current level of technology? No.

Switch to Nuclear power? What is your visceral reaction to that proposal? So no.

The things that need to be done cannot be done, not because it is impossible, but because it goes against human nature, human desire, human selfishness, human self-centredness, and human self-interest. 
But sure, continue to hope. Or continue to do your little part. You can cut down on meat, give up your car, cycle to work, turn off your aircon, and switch off all the unused devices at the mains.

Meanwhile 1.4 billion Chinese are discovering the joys of electricity.

Meanwhile 1.3 billion Indians are trying to claw their way out of poverty.

And behind them are the Africans, the Indochinese, the Philippines, the Indonesians and quite a few other smaller countries and areas.
From: "The Role of Coal in SEA Power Sector" Pg 27:
Coal consumption in Indonesia has grown almost four fold since 2000, to 91 Mt in 2015. The electricity sector is the largest coal consumer, and is expanding as a result of the addition of coal-fired generation capacity. The Indonesian government encourages increased use of coal in the power sector, because of abundant domestic supply and the need to reduce the use of expensive diesel and fuel oil for power generation.
So from that study, it is obvious the reason why coal power plants are used is because it is cheap. And poor countries like Indonesia have no spare cash to use more expensive (and environmentally friendlier) fuel or even other methods to generate power for their people. So are the rich countries willing to pay Indonesia to generate power by means other than coal-fired power plants?

Because for 200 years (or so) the now developed countries became developed by burning coal to generate electricity. And some still are (though they are phasing out the dirty coal plants for cleaner plants).

And now that they are developed, and can afford to switch to cleaner (more expensive) power generation methods, they want to deny poorer, developing countries from providing energy to their people cheaply.

Maybe they are not being racist, but it might well seem that way to the developing countries. And the way the developed countries can show good faith, is to offer to provide funding to build clean fuel power plants, or green power plants.

Or they can continue to put out denunciatory reports like this one, saying poor developing countries are "Clashing with the UN Climate Goals".

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