Global Climate Policy and Energy: The Reality of it All

Despite attempts to move the world away from coal power generation, many countries are still planning or constructing over 1,600 coal plants in 62 countries. These new plants would expand the world’s coal-fired power capacity by 43 percent. The new plants would also make it virtually impossible to meet the goals set in the Paris climate accord, which aims to keep increases in global temperature from preindustrial levels below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This is continuing the trend of leading new countries into the cycle of coal dependency.

Recently, President Donald Trump said he wants to lift Obama administration restrictions on American financing for overseas coal projects as part of a focus on energy exports. Outside of the recent American withdrawal from the Paris accord, there is clear evidence that the world does not mean to hold to the core elements of the agreement. This shows the weakness of the accords and how little countries, on an independent state level, care about addressing climate change relative to their own economic prosperity and growth.

China, renowned for its production of renewable energy sources, has begun to export capital to other countries for coal-fired plant construction projects. China realizes the geopolitical benefits of aiding other countries, especially within a local proximity. It can build economic alliances for itself with developing countries, and benefit from their expansion much in the way the rest of the world has for the past thirty years with the Chinese expansion.

Shanghai Electric Group, one of the country’s largest electrical equipment makers, has announced plans to build coal power plants in Egypt, Pakistan and Iran with a total capacity of 6,285 megawatts — almost 10 times the 660 megawatts of coal power it has planned in China.
The China Energy Engineering Corporation, which has no public plans to develop coal power in China, is building 2,200 megawatts’ worth of coal-fired power capacity in Vietnam and Malawi.
Of the world’s 20 biggest coal plant developers, 11 are Chinese. Overall, Chinese firms are behind 340,000-386,000 megawatts of planned coal power expansion worldwide.

Japan is even involved in joint ventures now for a combined 5,500 megawatts of new coal generation in Myanmar, Vietnam, Philippines, and Indonesia. This all while the Japanese are adding to their own coal-fired power portfolio at home to make up for an energy shortfall.

Countries like China and Japan are very active in the renewables sector, but the limitations of renewables make the technology incapable of fully servicing the power needs of countries across the developmental spectrum. With western financing also aiding coal mining and power generation developments, world governments need to wake up to the reality of the incapability of renewable technologies fully supplying developed and developing countries alike. Proper policy parity that addresses all aspects of the environment are necessary. That includes economic aspects, political aspects, as well as natural and manmade environmental aspects. There are technologies currently that can supply the world with clean power at a reduced price and baseload capacity that the world requires, and those technologies can only aid societies if leaders are forthright about the reality of the world.

Our politicians and leaders need to be honest with themselves and their constituents about the economic impacts of certain policies, and the lack of commitment by other nations. If global climate change is truly a global problem that requires international commitment, then all nations should act forthright in addressing the problem. Occam’s razor, however, says that the evidence being presented paints a much simpler story of individual self-preservation and prosperity by nation states.