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More than 40 countries including Vietnam have pledged to phase out coal power

At COP26, more than 40 countries, including countries using coal-fired power a lot like Canada, Poland, Ukraine and Vietnam, have pledged to phase out coal and stop building more thermal power plants.
Hơn 40 nước cam kết bỏ dần điện than, trong đó có Việt Nam, khó vẫn phải làm - Ảnh 1.
An operating coal-fired power plant in Banten province, Indonesia – Photo: Reuters

The Global Joint Declaration on the shift from coal to clean energy was published on Energy Day November 4 at the 26th Conference. Attending the Conference are the Parties joining the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow, UK. According to the Guardian, more than 40 countries have made commitments, although in Asia, the consumption of coal is still growing.

Efforts in decades

“The world is on the right track, ready to put an end to coal and embrace the economic and environmental benefits of building a clean energy future” – Head of UK Energy and Business Kwasi Kwarteng talked about the global statement, UK’s focal strategy at COP26. Together with the commitment to get rid of coal-fired power will be investments in clean energy, supporting funds for workers and areas depending on the coal industry.

However, it is not clear whether large economies dependent on thermal power such as China, India, and the US will participate. According to an announcement from the British Government, it is expected that developed countries will stop coal-fired power from 2030s and less developed countries will join in the next decade. In addition, about 20 countries and organizations also pledged not to finance foreign fossil energy projects from the end of next year.

At COP26, the United Nations special envoy for climate, Mr. Mark Carney, said that the world needs 100 trillion USD to meet the climate goals in the next three decades.

However, environmentalists say this commitment is still vague and the truth is that many financial institutions are still pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into fossil energy. Over the past decade, developed countries promised to spend $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries transfer to clean energy and combat extreme weather, but that commitment has soon been forgotten.

To “detoxify” coal power, a roadmap is required

Coal generates 37% of the world’s electricity, but is also the most polluting and emits the most greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Reducing coal is therefore the key to achieve environmental goals. However, due to cheap prices and abundant supply, many countries still depend on this energy source.

In Asia, a region that accounts for 60% of the world’s population and produces half of the world’s goods, coal consumption is still increasing. The majority of 195 thermal power plants under construction in the world are in Asia, according to Global Energy Monitor (GEM).

In 2021, the demand for coal continues to reach peaks when countries need a lot of energy to recover from the epidemic. “Developing renewable energy is important, but coal will remain India’s main energy source for at least another 15 years,” the former coal minister told Reuters.

In Vietnam, Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hong Dien recently said that Vietnam cannot stop coal-fired power in the 2021-2030 period. Speaking at an online conference with the British Minister of Energy, Trade and Industrial Strategy Greg Hands on October 21, Mr. Dien said thermal power currently accounts for over 32% of the total electricity capacity of the country and plays an important role in ensuring Vietnam’s energy security.

But by 2030, Vietnam is not going to develop any new thermal power plants, and minimize other new plants until 2045. Factories that have been operating for many years with outdated technology are gradually eliminated.

In fact, even in countries that have committed to cutting down on emissions, thermal power is still very important. Japan is building seven more thermal power plants to make up for the shortfall in energy after the Fukushima nuclear crisis, while Australia recently confirmed it will not give up on coal.

On October 3, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced plans to support Indonesia and the Philippines to shut down 50 thermal power plants in the next 10-15 years with two funds worth billions of dollars.

According to ADB, one fund is used for decommissioning or converting thermal power plants, while the other fund is invested in clean energy. However, the plans still lack many specific action details, while the countries are still heavily dependent on thermal power.

Indonesia is the world’s largest coal exporter and coal prices are soaring. In the Philippines, more than half of the energy consumed comes from coal. Indonesia has previously said its plan is to phase out thermal power by 2056 and be carbon-neutral by 2060. To do so, Indonesia needs $200 billion a year in this decade to invest in clean energy.

 “We need the funding to get rid of coal early and develop renewable energy. This is the core issue and I am, as a finance minister, thinking about how much it will cost us to quit coal,” said Sri Mulyani, Indonesia’s finance minister, at COP26.

COP26 and the numbers

100 billion USD: The amount of money that developed countries pledged in 2009 to help poor countries fight climate change, but have not yet implemented.

101: At COP26, 101 countries and the European Union have pledged to end deforestation by 2030.

414: The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now 414 ppm, about 50% higher than in pre-industrial times.

80%: The G20 group accounts for about 80% of global CO2 emissions.