‘Hypocrisy writ large in coal action’

Fossil fuel burning

ZIMBABWEAN climate change experts said this week the global push to limit damages inflicted on the environment by fossil fuels is hypocritical.

A meeting of climate change experts, who last month attended the COP27 summit in Egypt, raised a string of concerns over elaborate manipulation of developing economies by world powers.

They said advanced economies were acting contrary to what they were preaching.

A major talking point in all COP summits in the past few years has been the push to halt the use of coal-to-power industries.

Coal is one of the biggest sources of energy for developing economies, including Zimbabwe, which last month projected that output will reach 4,2 million megatonnes next year, from about 3,9 million megatonnes in 2022.

As the campaign against fossil fuels heated up last year, one of China’s biggest banks, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), walked away from a US$3 billion coal power plant funding deal in Zimbabwe, giving weight to the global strategy to swing to renewable energy.

ICBC told Bloomberg that it had decided to stop funding the 2,8-gigawatt (GW) Sengwa coal power plant in line with the new strategy to fund clean energy sources.

Bloomberg said ICBC ditched the Zimbabwean project following crucial meetings with Go Clean, an ICBC coalition of environmentalists, mostly from countries hosting ICBC coal projects, which was established to pile pressure on the lender to switch investment to clean energy like solar and wind power.

The climate experts said they were shocked to learn that just as crucial decisions were concluded in Egypt, the United Kingdom gave a nod for investment into a 2,8 million-tonne-a-year coal mine, defying a groundswell of local and global objections.

The approval paved way for the establishment of a £165 million (US$204 million) 16 coking coal asset, with capacity to unlock 500 new job opportunities.

Speaking at the post COP 27 dialogue meeting organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, African climate change group lead negotiator, Veronica Jakarasi said there were still gaps between current levels of adaptation and what was required to tackle adverse effects of climate change.

“The United Kingdom recently started a new coal plant, and their excuse is that they are not using the coal for power,” Jakarasi said. “Instead, they are using it for steel-making, and they are also going to export it.”

COP27 saw the establishment of the loss and damage fund, which includes funding arrangements for losses and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change. Zimbabwe is not the only developing country to face a global campaign to end coal mining for running its industries.

According to Jakarasi, big powers have also asked regional economies to phase out fossil fuels.

Sixbert Mwanga, Climate Action Network Africa coordinator, said tragedies that have beset Africa as climate change hit countries were not of their own making.

But implications of climate change have been dire. Experts say African economies have taken some of the most brutal blows.

This week, Green Building Council of Zimbabwe chairperson Mike Eric Juru said “the world is on fire”.

Juru warned that rising sea levels, incessant pandemics, droughts, high temperatures and cyclones were results of shifting climatic conditions, which have hammered food and industrial production.

A humanitarian tragedy sweeping through East Africa has sent shock waves across the region as droughts mount, forcing human movement of a significant scale.

Women and children have been among the worst victims.

Reports of parents abandoning children to the mess of predators in east African jungles as hunger strikes have caught the globe by shock.

“When it comes to the loss and damage fund, there are questions that we should raise before we start celebrating. For example, how long will it take to put money into the fund? How easy will it be to access the fund? The most important one will be that will it need money for us to get that money,” Mwanga said, referring to the damage fund. “In this case, will you need to submit a proposal to get the money? For a country to come up with a proposal they will need money.”

Mwanga also spoke on how Africans should not be dependent on donors when it comes to funding for mitigation measures.

He said a donor might just decide to cut funding for such programmes.

In his address to a climate change conference this week, Juru said the world must plan industries including the mining sector, must implement sustainable operations.

He said it was crucial for industries to balance between profit and protecting the environment, as economies move to tackle climate change.

“We look forward to our industry embracing the green revolution and create a green economy enhancing global de-carbonisation initiatives,” Juru said.

“The built environment requires materials that are environmentally friendly, recyclable, and reusable, which enhance energy efficiency. The world is on fire, the rising sea levels, incessant pandemic, droughts, high temperatures, cyclones are there for everyone to endure. We are indeed exposed to the vagaries of climate change.

“The lowest hanging fruit in climate mitigation and adaptation is dealing with the built environment,” he said. “In 2021, the operation of buildings accounted for 30% of global final energy consumption and 27% of total energy sector emissions (8% being direct emissions in buildings and 19% indirect emissions from the production of electricity and heat used in buildings).

“The expectation out there is, armed with those facts; a roadmap (to tackle climate change) will be crafted and followed going forward.”

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