UN Backs Coal Power for the Poor

Published April 28, 2015

The United Nation’s is breaking with the World Bank and environmental non-governmental organizations, agreeing to continue coal-fired power plants in developing countries.

At the behest of the Obama administration and with the support of international environmental non-governmental organizations, the world bank began to reduce funding  coal-fired power plants in the developing world in 2011 and in 2013 it adopted a new policy curtailing such loans even further, “provid[ing] financial support for greenfield coal power generation projects only in rare circumstances,” such as where there are “no feasible alternatives to coal.”

By contrast, he United Nation (UN) green climate fund (GCF) refused an explicit ban on fossil fuel projects at March meeting in Songdo, South Korea, according to a report in Power Engineering International (3/30/15).

‘Clean-coal reduces carbon-dioxide emissions’

In supporting coal-fired power plants for developing countries, the UN reasoned that these countries should and would develop using coal as a source of electricity. Therefore, the GCF would provide funding to ensure the coal-fired power plants built are the most advanced, cleanest, coal plants available. Otherwise, the UN feared, poor nations would adopt the cheapest, if dirtiest, coal technologies available.

Japan, China and Saudi Arabia favored the UN’s position. Speaking for the Japanese government, Takako Ito, a foreign ministry spokeswoman told the Associated Press, “Japan is of the view that the promotion of high-efficiency coal-fired power plants is one of the realistic, pragmatic and effective approaches to cope with the issue of climate change.” Japan backed its words with more than $1.6 billion in loans for coal plants in Bangladesh, India and Indonesia.

IEA on board

The International Energy Agency Clean Coal Center (CCC) also welcomed the UN’s decision to fund coal power in developing countries. Dr Andrew Minchener of the CCC told Power Engineering International, “I am very pleased to see a further rejection of the World Bank and others blanket ban on support for clean coal technology. The provision of financial support for high-efficiency low emissions coal-fired power plants is an effective means to reduce the overall carbon intensity of the world’s coal power fleet, while also helping many people in developing countries to escape poverty.” 

The IEA CCC’s Head of Communications, Debo Adams echoed Minchener’s view, stating “At this stage, the options are not clean coal or 100 per cent renewables, they are largely dirty coal without much help, or clean coal if support is given to cover the higher installation costs of more efficient plants with pollution control technologies.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is the managing editor of The Heartland Institute’s Environment & Climate News.