Tag Archives: climate change

‘Human rights before mining rights’: German villagers take on coal firm

Bucket wheel excavators dig into the earth at the Garzweiler open pit lignite mine in western Germany. Photograph: Federico Gambarini/AFP/Getty Images

Residents say they will not be ousted by energy firm seeking to expand the Garzweiler mine

Philip Oltermann | The Guardian | 30 September 2019  

A group of villagers living on the edge of one of Germany’s biggest surface coalmines have vowed not sell their properties to the energy company RWE, and to mount a legal challenge against any attempt to oust them from their homes.

The protest alliance is the first coordinated effort in more than 10 years against the expansion of the Garzweiler mine in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which threatens the existence of 12 villages that are home to 7,600 residents. Demolition of the first four villages is scheduled to begin in 2023.

Acting under the name Menschenrecht vor Bergrecht – Human Rights Before Mining Rights – the alliance of villagers announced at a press conference in Düsseldorf on Monday they would refuse an expropriation agreement with RWE under which the energy company would pay to resettle them.

This would mean the company would have to apply to the regional government for formal permission to dispossess the residents. But the villagers said they would then challenge this in court.

In 2008, the environmental group BUND mounted a similar challenge against RWE, when it refused to sell an orchard in the village of Otzenrath on the edge of the surface mine. Protesters were eventually evicted and 87 fruit trees razed.

Menschenrecht vor Bergrecht hopes it is on firmer legal ground to resist dispossession now that the government has announced plans to phase out coal by 2038 in a move away from fossil fuels.

A piece of land on the boundary between the village of Keyenberg and the Garzweiler mine will serve as a testing ground.

“We are using this land as an example, to ask the courts about the legal questions of expropriation,” the group said in a statement. “If RWE does not agree we can keep this piece of land, we will use legal means to defend it. At the moment, this is the only way we can get legal clarity about our future and on whether what RWE is doing is legal – turning people out of their homes for coal, as the world struggles to combat the climate crisis.”

Students hold placards as they take part in a global climate strike in Berlin on 20 September. The placard on the right reads: ‘Ice and snow, instead of RWE.’ Photograph: Christian Mang/Reuters

A report by the German Institute for Economic Research published this year argues that the government’s new policy objectives render unnecessary RWE’s plans to remove the villages around Garzweiler, as well as the forest by the Hambach surface mine. RWE says it considers the study “unserious and unscientific”.

Asked about the villagers’ declaration, a spokesperson for RWE told the Guardian the group represented a minority of residents of the villages affected. “Three-quarters of villagers have concluded negotiations over compensation payments, and their villages will be rebuilt in new locations,” said Guido Steffen.

“We take notice of the villagers’ announcement and regret that these steps have to be taken,” he added. “We have a phase-out, not a breakdown of this industry, so we need the coal under these villages.”

Marita Dresen, a member of Menschenrecht vor Bergrecht from the village of Kuckum, said at the press conference on Monday: “It breaks my heart when I think about the fact that my entire life could be destroyed by a coal digger.

“The legal route is not what we would have chosen, but it seems we have no other option if we’re to get clarity. But I would never have taken this step alone. We are a team and we know that we are not just acting for our villages, but taking a stand against coal everywhere – and for the climate.”

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Britain passes one week without coal power for first time since 1882

Twilight for coal: Rugeley power station in Staffordshire, which is now being demolished. Photograph: Northern Nights Photography/Alamy Stock Photo

Landmark follows government pledge to phase out electricity from coal by 2025

Jasper Jolly | The Guardian | 8 May 2019 

Britain has gone a week without using coal to generate electricity for the first time since Queen Victoria was on the throne, in a landmark moment in the transition away from the heavily polluting fuel.

The last coal generator came off the system at 1.24pm on 1 May, meaning the UK reached a week without coal at 1.24pm on Wednesday, according to the National Grid Electricity System Operator, which runs the network in England, Scotland and Wales.

Coal-fired power stations still play a major part in the UK’s energy system as a backup during high demand but the increasing use of renewable energy sources such as wind power means it is required less. High international coal prices have also made the fuel a less attractive source of energy.

The latest achievement – the first coal-free week since 1882, when a plant opened at Holborn in London – comes only two years after Britain’s first coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution.

Burning coal to generate electricity is thought to be incompatible with avoiding catastrophic climate change, and the UK government has committed to phasing out coal-fired power by 2025.

Reductions in coal use in the UK have been responsible for halving electricity generation emissionssince 2013, according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), whose report last week called for the UK to pursue a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Fintan Slye, the director of National Grid ESO, said he believed Britain’s electricity system could be run with zero carbon as soon as 2025.

He said: “Zero-carbon operation of the electricity system by 2025 means a fundamental change to how our system was designed to operate – integrating newer technologies right across the system – from large-scale offshore wind to domestic-scale solar panels to increased demand-side participation, using new smart digital systems to manage and control the system in real-time.”

Greg Clark, the business secretary, hailed the achievement. He said the UK is “on a path to become the first major economy to legislate for net-zero emissions” in the wake of the report.

However, the government has also faced criticism over some of its policies. The CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, said on Wednesday that proposals to impose higher VAT on solar panels and its failure to give its full backing to onshore wind generation would make meeting a net-zero emissions target more difficult.

“We will need to throw everything at this challenge, including onshore wind and solar,” Stark told MPs on the business committee. “Anything that makes it harder is really not in line with the net-zero challenge overall.”

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Dioceses in major maritime areas pledge fossil fuel divestment

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, celebrates Mass onboard a ship in Copenhagen May 5 during a Vatican-sponsored conference titled “The Common Good on Our Common Seas.” (Courtesy of Global Catholic Climate Movement)

Brian Roewe | National Catholic Reporter | May 8, 2019

Several dioceses located near important maritime trade centers and ports are among the dozen latest Catholic institutions to commit to divest financial holdings from fossil fuels.

The joint announcement was made Tuesday, days after the conclusion of a Vatican-sponsored conference on the challenges facing the oceans and coastal areas.

Among the divesting dioceses are the Panama City Archdiocese, adjacent to the Panama Canal and the first archdiocese in the Americas to divest, and the Catholic Church in Greece, itself a country with a rich seafaring heritage and home today to the world’s largest merchant marine fleet.

Joining them was the San Carlos Diocese of the Philippines and Caritas Philippines, the church’s development agency in the Southeast Asian archipelago nation, whose people crew more than one quarter of global sea vessels.

Others included the Malta Archdiocese and, within Italy, the Naples Archdiocese, the Civitavecchia-Tarquinia Diocese and the Savona-Noli Diocese, and the Siracusa Archdiocese — the former three all popular ports for cruise ships. Also divesting are the Sisters of Saint Francis of Rochester, Minnesota, the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea, and Social Justice Ireland.

The 12 organizations join more than 120 Catholic institutions that already have made public commitments to expunge from their investments shares in companies involved in the mining and refining of coal, oil and natural gas due to their primary role in causing climate change.

Burning fossil fuels releases heat-trapping greenhouse gases that have warmed the planet 1 degree Celsius since the late-19th century. Climate scientists say that the world must reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 to limit warming to 1.5 C and with it prevent far more dangerous effects, like more extensive droughts and increasingly severe weather, that rising temperatures bring.

“The climate crisis is real, and we don’t have a moment to lose in solving it. Dropping fossil fuels sends a strong message to the world — the Catholic Church isn’t waiting for climate justice,” said Tomas Insua, executive director of Global Catholic Climate Movement, in a statement.

Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the archbishop of Naples, added, “It is time to become aware of the seriousness of the climate crisis and to work to ensure a respectful change in behaviors and lifestyles of each person. I think that this civic responsibility must be a moral duty and a concrete commitment for every good Christian.”

More than 90% of global trade travels by sea, with shipping accounting for an estimated 2% to 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Many large ships operate on “heavy fuel oil,” a high-sulfur type of oil that releases noxious gases, including sulfur, that can be especially harmful to the health of those aboard, particularly crews who spend long durations at sea.

In 2016 the International Maritime Organization — the United Nations agency charged with setting safety and environmental standards for international shipping — set a new fuel oil standard that is expected to reduce sulfur emissions from ships by 80%. The standard will go into effect beginning January 2020.

Just days before the divestment announcement and ahead of an IMO meeting next week in London, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development co-hosted a conference in Copenhagen titled “The Common Good on Our Common Seas.” The conference, held May 3-5, was also organized by Stella Maris the Apostleship of the Sea; Justice and Peace Europe; Justitia et Pax Denmark and the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the human development dicastery, was among the conference speakers. Other attendees included Simon Bergulf, the director of regulatory affairs for A.P. Møller–Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, and Peter Thomson, U.N. special envoy to the oceans.

Simon Bergulf, director of regulatory affairs for the Danish shipping company A.P. Møller–Maersk, speaks on achieving carbon neutrality in the shipping industry during the Vatican-sponsored conference “The Common Good on Our Common Seas.” (Courtesy of Global Catholic Climate Movement)

In a letter to conference participants, Pope Francis emphasized intergenerational justice and dialogue as two important elements when considering the challenges facing the seas and coastal communities, not only in terms of climate change and polluted waters, but also in the exploitation of the shipping industry for human trafficking.

The pope characterized intergenerational solidarity as “a key moral imperative in responding to the problems of our time.”

“By placing the needs of our contemporaries, especially young people, and also of generations yet to come, at the heart of efforts to care for creation, then the common good of all may be promoted and protected, ‘since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us,’ ” Francis said, quoting from his encyclical “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home.”

The Global Catholic Climate Movement, which organized the latest divestment announcement as well as others in recent years, emphasized the connections that several of the Catholic institutions have to the shipping industry.

The Panama City Archdiocese is situated near the Pacific Ocean entrance of the Panama Canal, which since its construction in 1914 has served as a critical trade route in saving marine merchants time and money. As many as 15,000 ships pass through the canal each year.

Panama holds the largest ship registry in the world, and also registers 25% of the world’s dry bulk ships — large ships that carry bulk commodities cargo, including coal.

Roughly one-quarter of the 1.5 million seafarers globally are from the Philippines, while Greece possesses more merchant marine ships than any other nation.

At next week’s International Maritime Organization (May 13-17), its marine environment protection committee will discuss a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by as much as 70% by mid-century and develop guidelines for the new sulfur fuel standard. It will also explore ways to limit marine plastic litter.

It is estimated 150 million metric tons of plastic are circulating in the planet’s oceans and waters, with 8 million metric tons entering annually.

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Coal too dirty for our good

Rugeley power station in the UK is being demolished in phases until 2021. Coal plants are being retired at a record pace globally. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

The National aka The Loggers Times | April 15, 2019

COAL is a cheap hydrocarbon fuel and can be used in the production of goods and services, such as electricity.

However, this cheap hydrocarbon fuel is also the No.1 cause of environmental pollution and other issues.

Coal mining and its use in Papua New Guinea should be banned.

The following direct and indirect costs of coal use support the ban.

  • Coal is an unsustainable source of energy and it cannot be replaced once it has been used;
  • carbon emissions from mine blasts and machinery used in mining coal will cause irreparable environmental damage;
  • environmental damage and carbon and heat emissions from coal mining and the industrial use of coal will contribute to global warming and exacerbate the problems we are facing with adverse weather conditions and rising sea levels globally;
  • adverse weather conditions damage roads and highways which are expensive to build, repair and maintain. They also cause major traffic delays at sea ports and airports affecting international trade and the movement of people locally and internationally;
  • adverse weather conditions are causing extensive damage to food gardens and cities and towns, as well as dislocating residents of cities, towns and villages, causing hardship and inconvenience;
  • it is costly to provide assistance to people affected by natural disasters, which are being made worse by global warming;
  • coal mining will result in the loss of the value of forests to local communities because when communities lose their forests they also lose food, shelter, and other things they depend on as people of the land; and,
  • Smog produced from the industrial use of coal in cities will increase respiratory and lung problems. Of course, the medical cost of treating the diseases is another consideration against the use of coal. PNG has so much natural resources that can be harnessed to produce cheaper, dependable and clean electricity. Coal is not one of them.

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Electricity from hydropower, solar and wind is always better than coal

Yaengolism Yalanem |The National aka The Loggers Times | April 10, 2019

PAPUA New Guinea is blessed with numerous pristine mountains and rivers, with high rainfall in the sense that we can get hydropower anywhere in the mountainous region.

Even wasted energy from the LNG is not utilised.

The commercialisation of the LNG wasted gas energy is optimal as in the case of gas-power commercialisation by Dirio Gas & Power Company.

Hydropower is wasted energy when not utilised. The high rainfall in most areas of the country provide for numerous rivers, all with good volume and flow rate.

These can provide both a source of clean, sustainable power, water for export and carbon credits. A single dam on the Purari River, for example, can provide five times the required on and off grid current power requirement for the country, but instead they have resorted to the coal seam west of Herd Base up the Purari River for the coal-fired power by Mayur Resources.

Climate change is a major threat to livelihoods in PNG.

Gulf Governor Chris Haiveta reiterated in The National on March 22 that coal was a base-load power while energy sources like solar, hydro and wind fluctuates.

Is base-load power really relevant? Because solar and wind are intermittent, hydro can be used to balance intermittent solar and wind, but experts say the term is a “dinosaur” that has been misunderstood and that no longer can apply to our dynamic energy market. Demand varies hugely and energy production needs to be responsive.

Coal-fired power stations can take days to fire up from cold to full capacity and when demand slumps during off-peak periods, shutting down isn’t an option.

So when these power plants are being built in PNG, a market solution will be created. To stop them from having to turn off overnight, the regulators and the operators will offer very, very low-cost electricity for consumers to run their electrification systems, which will in turn sustain the ‘base-load’ on the power station.

The thought of producing clean coal is just a notion made by the coal company and its proponents and promoting coal as clean is a little bit just like an advertising slogan. As the saying goes, whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.

Power-lust is a weed that grows only in the vacant lots of an abandoned mind.

Clean energy will only be generated from hydro, solar, wind, tide, geothermal and bio-fuels.

By then, the energy from fossil fuel is replaced by clean energy and environmental degradation and climate change is minimized.

Remember not to be charmed into promises or offers to receive any property or benefit for your greed to satiate your desires.

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Japan to oppose new or expanded coal-fired power plants in blow to Australian exports

Japan’s environment minister has announced he will ‘in principle’ oppose any new plans to build or expand coal-fired power stations. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

Australia’s top export market for thermal coal gives further signs of dramatic energy pivot to renewables

Ben Smee | The Guardian | 31 March 2019 

Japan’s environment minister has announced he will “in principle” oppose any new plans to build or expand coal-fired power stations, as further signs emerge of a dramatic energy pivot by Australia’s top export market for thermal coal.

Guardian Australia reported in March that Japan had cancelled a large percentage of planned investments in coal-fired power, while Japanese investment vehicles were ditching coal projects and instead seeking to back large-scale renewable projects across Asia.

Market analysts expect the price of thermal coal will remain dictated by China, whose recent restrictions on Australian exports have already tempered near-record prices, and would likely continue to reduce its value.

A faster-than-anticipated transition by the Japanese energy sector, which buys 39% of Australian-mined thermal coal, would affect future volumes and the viability of some new mines.

The resources sector believes forecasts for slowing demand in north and east Asia will be offset by growth in demand in parts of south Asia and south-east Asia.

But the financing of new coal-fired projects in developing Asia will likely come from investment vehicles based in China, Japan and Korea, and be closely linked to domestic policy in those countries.

Late last week, three separate announcements added to a growing belief that a renewed, positive focus on the Paris goals is emerging in Japan, among government and large corporations.

The Japanese environment minister, Yoshiaki Harada, announced a “policy initiative” to oppose new or expanded coal-fired power plants, the national newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported.

The environment minister does not have the final say on new power generation projects, but his opinion is considered a fundamental part of the planning process.

On Friday, Japan’s largest utility, Kansai Electric Power, announced it would expand its renewable energy portfolio to 6GW by 2030, earmarking US$5bn in capital expenditure for clean power projects in the next two years.

The same day Japan’s Marubeni Corporation, a significant developer of power projects in developing Asia, announced it would target a doubling of renewable energy revenues by 2023.

Marubeni announced last year it was exiting coal. Its divestment decision was followed by fellow conglomerates MitsuiMitsubishiItochu and Sojitz. Three coal-fired power plant projects have already been cancelled in Japan this year.

Observers in Japan remain cautious, as the country has coal-fired power projects under construction and some already approved. The prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has signalled he wants to show global leadership on climate change, ahead of the next G20 summit in June in Osaka.

The speed with which Japanese government and industry have shifted focus is significant, market analysts say. It comes as global financial institutions are increasingly exiting coal. On Saturday, Australia’s largest insurer, QBE, said it would stop insuring new thermal coal projects – including mines and power generation – from July this year, and underwrite no thermal coal projects by 2030.

Australian coalminers might not feel the direct impacts of these pivots for a decade or more, as most recent announcements relate to new projects, or offer staged exit commitments.

Tim Buckley, the director of energy finance studies for the Institute of Economics and Financial Analysis, said the next decade would be critical for those most heavily dependant on thermal coal.

Buckley said the Australian economy, mining communities and workers would be at greater risk if governments failed to understand the changing sentiment of global financial markets, particularly Japan, and ignored the need to implement effective transition strategies.

“We have a decade to prepare, and that’s the decade that is critically important to building the industries of the future,” Buckley said.

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Global ‘collapse’ in number of new coal-fired power plants

Rugeley power station in the UK is being demolished in phases until 2021. Coal plants are being retired at a record pace globally. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Not long before coal use is over, say analysts, while warning of possible resurgence in China

Damian Carrington | The Guardian | 28 March 2019

The number of coal-fired power plants being developed around the world has collapsed in the last three years, according to a report.

The number of plants on which construction has begun each year has fallen by 84% since 2015, and 39% in 2018 alone, while the number of completed plants has dropped by more than half since 2015.

The report, from the NGO-backed Global Energy Monitor, says the falling costs of renewable energy are pricing coal out of the electricity market, more than 100 financial institutions have blacklisted coal producers, and political action to cut carbon emissions is growing.

“It’s only a matter of time before coal is a thing of the past worldwide,” said one of the report’s authors, Neha Mathew-Shah, of the Sierra Club.

However, Christine Shearer, of Global Energy Monitor, said even emissions from the existing coal plants were incompatible with keeping global warming below 2C. “We need to radically phase down coal plant use over the next decade to keep on track for Paris climate goals,” she said.

The report warns of a possible coal plant resurgence in China, where satellite photos show developers have restarted work on dozens of suspended projects.

Coal plant retirements have continued at a record pace, the report finds, with the US accounting for more than half of the total despite efforts by the Trump administration to prevent the closure of ageing plants. A separate report this week found that three quarters of existing US coal-fired electricity production was now more expensive than new solar and wind energy.

However, data from the International Energy Agency published on Tuesday found that global carbon emissions rose in 2018, with a young fleet of coal plants in Asia accounting for a third of the increase.

The World Coal Association said in a statement: “As the largest source of electricity generation, coal will continue to be a critical enabler of development. For many countries, particularly in south and south-east Asia, it underpins economic development. We must respect and support them in their choice and fund low emissions technologies.”

However, the best modern coal plants are still significantly more polluting than even gas plants.

China and India have accounted for 85% of new coal power capacity since 2005, according to the Global Energy Monitor report. China permitted construction for the generation of less than 5GW of coal power in 2018, compared with 184GW in 2015. India permitted less than 3GW in 2018, compared with 39GW in 2010. India has added more solar and wind power capacity than coal over the last two years.

However, a report by the China Electricity Council, which represents the power utilities, proposes allowing 290GW of new capacity, more than the entire US coal fleet.

Lauri Myllyvirta, of Greenpeace, said: “Another coal power construction spree [in China] would be near impossible to reconcile with the emission reductions needed to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.”

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