MAC: Mines and Communities

Mitigating Coal: a few steps forward, many steps back...

Published by MAC on 2013-07-28
Source: Statements, Institute for Policy Studies, Reuters (2013-07-18)

Who's winning the war over coal? There are signs that those who dig up and utilise the black stuff are finally not getting it all their own way.

President Obama recently promised an end to public financing of the sector, and the US Export-Import Bank has voted not to back a new coal-fired power plant for Vietnam.

The United Church of Christ has also voted to disinvest from all fossil fuel companies (though its statement, calling for "enhanced shareholder engagement" with the same firms seems a little puzzling).

However, the World Bank has yet to forsake its own role in boosting the dirty fuel, lending support to one of the most damaging of India's new power projects.

Meanwhile, new rules on carbon emissions trading continue playing a major part in promoting heavy industry which depends on cossil fuel use, in Germany and Australia (See: Australia's new carbon policy bows down to Big Business)

United Church of Christ becomes first church to divest from fossil fuels

The mainline Protestant denomination also passed a resolution to make its church buildings carbon-neutral.

Melissa Breyer

Mother Nature Network

2 July 2013

What does "God's country" look like? For the more than 1 million members of the United Church of Christ, it looks like a planet free from the deleterious effects of fossil fuels.

At the denomination's national gathering in Long Beach, Calif., this week, a plan of attack on climate change was put in place, including strategies to divest from fossil fuel companies. The resolution makes the United Church of Christ (UCC) the first major religious body in the United States to take such action.

The vote, brought by the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC and supported by 10 of the denomination's other conferences, calls for "enhanced shareholder engagement in fossil fuel companies, an intensive search for fossil fuel-free investment vehicles, and the identification of 'best in class' fossil fuel companies by 2015," according to a statement from the church.

"Today, the UCC added another ‘first' when it became the first national faith communion to vote to divest from fossil fuel companies - and to do it with the support of its major investment institution, United Church Funds," said the Rev. Jim Antal, conference minister of the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC and a major proponent of the resolution.

Upon hearing of the action, author and environmental activist Bill McKibben tweeted, "Just got news that the United Church of Christ has voted to divest from fossil fuels. This is incredibly important news."

McKibben has been on a 22-city tour this fall gathering support for his divestment campaign to get colleges and universities to sell their fossil fuel stock, an effort modeled on the 1980s campaign against South Africa's apartheid government. As reported by NPR, McKibben says that oil, coal and gas companies are sitting on enough fuel to quickly bring about devastating effects, and that these companies are an "international global menace" because they plan to extract the reserves and sell them.

"The fossil fuel industry is now a rogue industry, determined to do things that everybody who studies this knows are unwise, unsafe, crazy," McKibben says.

Since McKibben's tour began six months ago, divestment campaigns have begun on more than 300 campuses and five schools have divested. And now, the first church.

The UCC, a mainline Protestant denomination with nearly 5,200 congregations nationwide, also passed a resolution for its church buildings to become carbon-neutral, starting with energy audits on their facilities as the first step toward carbon-neutrality.

"This resolution calls on each and all of us to make difficult changes to the way we live each day of our lives," said Donald Hart, United Church Funds president. "Implementing the multiple strategies outlined in this resolution will demand time, money and care - but we believe creation deserves no less."


Winning the Fight Against Coal Financing

By Daphne Wysham

Institue for Policy Studies

18 July 2013

Hopefully, this is the dawn of a new day, when public financing of coal mines and power plants around the world is no longer acceptable. After 16 years of persistent pressure from IPS and other groups, our government seems to finally be listening.

When President Obama made his climate speech at Georgetown University in which he urged an end to almost all public financing of coal, Jim Vallette, former research director of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network at IPS, dropped me an e-mail and we reflected on how many years it had taken us to get to this point.

The first visit I made to a World Bank-financed coal mine in India in 1996 is still etched in my mind. Traveling for miles by train, bus and then taxi to get to the site, I saw first-hand what our "poverty alleviation" funds were doing. It was a moonscape, black, grey, with nauseating smoke billowing out of perpetual fires, deep underground. A child covered in flyash, was standing next to a black river, desperately trying to get a drink of clean water.

I later learned the wells had all run dry; the coal plant had used it all for its cooling towers. And the river was black with flyash, dumped by the World Bank-financed Talcher coal burner directly into the Nandira River. The only way this child could get a drink of water was to try to dig a hole in the sandy riverbed and hope that would filter out the pollutants.

I came back to Washington in 1996, and Jim and I got fired up to fight the public financing of coal, much of it being done in the name of poverty alleviation and sustainable development.

When we released a series of reports examining public financing of fossil fuels, starting with the World Bank, then on to the EBRD, then, in 1999 on OPIC and Ex-Im, we didn't know when these banks we had set our sites on would finally be forced out of coal. But we knew it had to come.

That day came on June 25, when we finally heard the following words uttered by President Obama:

"Today, I'm calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there's no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity. And I urge other countries to join this effort."

Were these words to be believed? Today, July 18, we got the following news: The US Export-Import Bank had rejected a coal plant in Vietnam. It was the first rejection of a coal burner since Obama's climate speech of several weeks ago. Tomorrow, July 19, the World Bank discusses whether or not to accept recommendations made in an internal report to end financing for coal in the projects it finances around the world.

This day came too late for that child and others in that community in India, who were forced to drink poisoned water. And I'm not pleased with the caveats Obama placed on his pledge. Nor am I pleased with the possibility that the World Bank, Ex-Im Bank and others may simply switch from coal to gas, especially if that gas is derived from "fracking," which can be worse for our already unstable climate than coal.

But hopefully, this is the dawn of a new day, when public financing of coal mines and power plants around the world is no longer acceptable. It's not enough, of course, but after 16 years of persistent pressure from IPS and other groups, our government seems to finally be listening.


Ex-Im Bank won't finance Vietnam coal-fired power plant

Reuters

18 July 2013

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Export-Import Bank board of directors voted on Thursday not to proceed with the financing of U.S. exports to help build a coal-fired power plant in Vietnam, following a plea from U.S. environmental groups to stop the project.

The Ex-Im Bank board decision was made after a "careful environmental review" of the 1,200-megawatt Thai Binh Two power plant, according to a statement from the Ex-Im Bank, citing a bank official.

Five environmental groups wrote to President Barack Obama earlier this week, calling the project "the first crucial test case" of his recently unveiled action plan to address global climate change.

"The Thai Binh II coal plant ... would use outmoded subcritical boiler technology, a violation of your Climate Action Plan and the Export‐Import Bank's environment policy. As such, this dirty coal plant will emit unacceptable air pollution that will worsen climate disruption and poison local communities," the groups said.

They included Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace USA, Pacific Environment, Center for International Environmental Law and Center for Biological Diversity.

Under Ex-Im Bank policy, the board conducts an environmental review of high carbon intensity projects before considering financing. That spares the bank and exporters unnecessary expense if the project is turned down on environmental concerns, the bank official said.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by James Dalgleish and Bernadette Baum)


EU approves German carbon support scheme for heavy industry

Charlie Dunmore

Reuters

18 July 2013

European Union regulators on Wednesday approved a German scheme to compensate heavy industries for higher electricity costs resulting from the bloc's emissions trading scheme (ETS).

The scheme introduced earlier this year is meant to prevent energy-intensive industries such as steel and cement makers from relocating outside Europe to avoid the costs associated with the EU's carbon trading scheme, known as "carbon leakage."

"The Commission's investigation found that the scheme... would effectively prevent carbon leakage while keeping competition distortions to a minimum," the European Commission said in a statement.

But the EU executive rejected a separate 40 million euro ($53 million) compensation scheme for non-ferrous metal producers in Germany introduced in 2009, saying Berlin had failed to prove a risk of carbon leakage at that time.

On Monday, the Commission said it was looking into a complaint about Germany's renewable energy law, which exempts some firms from paying charges, but will only decide after August whether to open a formal investigation.

($1 = 0.7612 euros)

(Reporting by Charlie Dunmore; editing by Ethan Bilby and James Jukwey)


Severe Impacts Undermined while Tata Seeks Expansion of the Mundra Project: New Report Says

Press Statement

18 July 2013

New Delhi: An increase of 20% of severe respiratory diseases is reported among children in the villages near to Tata Mundra power project in Gujarat. The menace of coal dust and fly ash is putting the lives of people and that of animals and horticulture at risk. Water in the outlet channel is at a whopping 35.6-35.8oC, which no marine life accustomed to a Gulf of Kutchh ‘normal' of 30-31.8 C at this time of the year, will be able to bear.

These are some of the staggering findings of a report released today in Delhi - The Increasing Human Cost of Coal Power. The Report is a supplementary report to the Real Cost of Power, which was released in June 2012 after an independent fact finding team concluded its investigations.

Real Cost of Power said in its report "The (Tata Mundra Ultra Mega) project has disproportionately high social, environmental, and economic costs. The company, the licensing agencies of the Government of Gujarat and India, and the national and international financial institutions have either ignored or willfully neglected the high social and environmental costs and did little to mitigate them.

It further said, "The Social Impact Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment are misleading and erroneous, having excluded a large number of communities whose loss of livelihood was overlooked. Cumulative impact studies required to understand the overall impacts were not done. The governments and the IFIs are equally complicit in the violations by the company."

Releasing the report senior activist Soumya Dutta said, "The impacts which was noted by the fact finding team was at a time when only one unit of the 4000 MW plant was operational. Today, since all units of the project are on steam, the impacts are manifold and no agency, either of the Governments or of the financial institutions, are monitoring it and people and the environment is at high risk."

The report also noted about the colossal damage caused to the mangroves due to the construction activities of the company and the negative impact on the local economy due to the damage caused to the horticulture, particularly Chikku and Date Palms.

Issues related to migrant labourers, the poor conditions in which they are living and the social unrest due to increase in drinking are also noted by the report. Drinking has led to serious domestic violence and there are many instances where the women forced the police to take actions against illicit liquor brewing.

"With projects like Tata Mundra, Adani, OPG etc, the coast of Kutchh is a dying coast," said Bharat Patel, General Secretary of Machimaar Adhikaar Sangharsh Sangathan, the local struggle of fishworkers against power projects in the Mundra coast. "The air is polluted, mangroves are damaged, temperature of the sea water has increased, livelihoods of thousands of fishworkers are severely affected... all because of these power projects and some other industries in the region. Both Tata Mundra and the adjacent Adani projects are only interested in doing superficial activities in the villages in the name of CSR, and the real pressing issues of the people are not addressed."

Additional information

In June 2011 Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS - Association for the Struggle for Fishworkers' Rights) sent a complaint to the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, the recourse mechanism at the International Finance Corporation, of the World Bank Group. The complaint now moves to the compliance arm of the CAO, after the Ombudsman has submitted the assessment report.

The complaint emerged to hold IFC accountable for co-financing the 4,000 MW coal-based Tata Ultra Mega Power Plant. Lodged by fishing and farming villagers, the complaint claims that due to flawed design and execution, including breaches of mandatory client obligations, the mammoth coal-fired power plant is contributing to the destruction livelihood of thousands of families and will cause irreparable damage to their fragile marine resources and agriculture.

With a total project cost of US$ 4.14 billion, the IFC is investing a $450 million loan and $50 million in equity. Other financial institutions funding the project are the Export-Import Bank of Korea, Asian Development Bank, India Infrastructure Finance Co. Ltd., Housing and Urban Development Corporation Ltd., Oriental Bank of Commerce, Vijaya Bank, State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Travancore, the State Bank of Indore and other local banks.

In June 2012 an independent fact finding team, headed by Justice (retired) S N Bhargava, former Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court, as well as former Chairperson of Human Rights Commissions of Assam and Manipur investigated the social and environmental issues of the project and released a report - The Real Cost of Power. The other members were Dr. Varadarajan Sampath, a marine scientist; Praful Bidwai, senior journalist and columnist; Jarjum Ete, former Chairpersion of the Commission for Women, Arunachal Pradesh; and Soumya Dutta, energy specialist and national convenor of Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha.

Resources:

Complaint to CAO: http://tinyurl.com/o5mnxcq
The Real Cost of Power: http://tinyurl.com/pz363fa
Coal Kills: http://tinyurl.com/p3ulp44

Contacts:

Bharat Patel: +91-9426469803
Soumya Dutta: +91-9213763756
Joe Athialy: +91-9871153775

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