In the name of climate action, and by virtue of a stunning lack of oversight, the UN has authorized almost $1 billion in loans towards the construction of coal-fired power plants in developing countries.
This discovery was made by the Associated Press, which was the first organization to question how money thrown at three Indonesian coal plants could be listed as “Climate Finance.” Coal is the dirtiest fuel source on the planet, meaning it emits more carbon when burned than any other fossil fuel. Unfortunately, it’s also the cheapest fossil fuel, making it extremely appealing to developing countries.
The money to build the Indonesian plants was provided by Japan under a United Nations initiative to help countries adapt to global warming. When questioned by the AP, the country’s representative argued that the plants, built by Japanese companies, burn coal more efficiently than older models. However, there is no clean way to burn coal, and the new plants still emit two times as much carbon dioxide as natural gas plants.
Here are the facts about carbon emissions: 1) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently concluded that the unregulated burning of fossil fuels needs to be phased out by the end of this century to prevent disastrous effects to the global climate. 2) A new theoretical equation actually establishes a direct link between carbon emissions and global warming by showing that one million-million tonnes of carbon triggers a one degree Celsius increase in global warming. 3) This year is already on track to become the warmest year in history. 4) On top of the environmental damage, carbon emissions also contribute to major health issues by creating particulate pollution (i.e. smog). Studies have linked particulate inhalation to lung cancer, coronary diseases and strokes in Beijing and Delhi, two of the most polluted cities on the planet. 5) The World Health Organization reports that air pollution causes approximately 7 million premature deaths globally.
Also, it’s important to note that, once built, coal plants begin to accumulate so much carbon residue that redevelopment of the land is extremely difficult. As Planet Expert Tom Kimmerer writes, “Old coal plants never die.”
Meanwhile, local fishermen in West Java’s Kanci Kulon village, located near Japan’s Cirebon coal-fired plant, are complaining that the coal sludge from the plant is killing their stocks of shrimp, fish, mussels and crabs.
Japan has also loaned $729 million to a “high energy efficient thermal power plant project in East Java,” which translates to an 815-megawatt coal-fired plant that will be partly-owned by the Japanese firms Mitsui and Tokyo Electric Power Company. Other projects developed under Japan’s “Climate Finance” umbrella include plants in Indramayu, West Java and “a dozen smaller coal projects in India, Indonesia and Vietnam,” according to the AP.
UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres was unaware that Japan was claiming such projects were “Climate Finance,” but under the current rules Japan has done nothing wrong.
That’s because there are no rules against saying a UN project is in the interest of stopping global warming when it in fact does the opposite, and no agency that is supervising such a notion.
So maybe someone at the UN should make one.