December 14, 2017
Issue 212  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

The Paris climate summit has spurred some significant corporate announcements in support of a rapid shift away from coal. AXA has not only dramatically increased its divestment target but also announced it will not insure any new coal projects. ING has also unveiled a far tougher coal divestment policy.

Germany, once a global climate policy leader, has been eclipsed on the international stage as it grapples with what to do about its large coal fleet. However, the Social Democratic Party of Germany has signalled its support for a coal phase-out ahead of negotiations with Chancellor Angela Merkel over the formation of a new coalition government. As India struggles with what to do over power utilities flouting new coal plant pollution standards, China’s crackdown on industrial emissions in the Beijing region has delivered a dramatic demonstration on how enforcement action can lead to a rapid improvement in air quality.

A shift away from coal projects is happening elsewhere too. In Indonesia, a court has overturned a permit for a Japanese-backed coal plant. In South Africa, a provincial government agency has rejected a permit for a proposed coal mine.In Australia, the Queensland Government has votoed a loan for Adani's proposed Carmichael coal project.

Bob Burton


China’s coal and industrial clampdown cleans air

The Chinese Government’s clampdown on cement and steel plants and the small-scale use of coal in the Beijing region has dramatically cut air pollution but the policy has had its problems too, writes Lauri Myllyvirta in Greenpeace’s Unearthed.

AXA sets the bar for fossil fuel divestment

The French insurance company AXA has adopted a policy on fossil fuels that sets a bold new standard for investors and insurance companies, writes Peter Bosshard from the Sunrise Project in Huffpost.

India’s policy on new coal plant pollution standards? Ignore them.

The response of India’s power generators to new air pollution standards for coal plants has been to largely ignore them and, to date, the Minister for the Environment is taking no enforcement action, writes Aruna Chandrasekhar in Asia Times.

Can Germany break its lignite habit?

Closing down Germany’s lignite-fired plants will require careful navigation of regional political forces and economic challenges, write Benedikt Becker, Frank Dohmen, Gerald Traufetter and Steffen Winter in Speigel Online.


Indonesian court overturns permit for Japanese-backed coal plant expansion

In response to a lawsuit filed by Indramayu Smoke Free Network, the Bandung Administrative Court has revoked the environmental permit of the proposed 2000 megawatt (MW) expansion of the Indramayu coal plant in West Java province in Indonesia. Residents from Mekarsari and surrounding villages argued that the environmental permit for PLN’s proposed expansion had been improperly issued and there had been no public consultation with the affected communities. The Japanese Government’s export credit agency, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, is a financial backer of the proposed plant expansion. (WALHI, CoalSwarm)

South African court rejects coal mine

Opposition by the Federation for a Sustainable Environment and other community groups to the proposed Palmietkuilen coal mine has led the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) to reject a permit application for the project. The proposed open cut mine would have required the displacement of an estimated 9500 people, affected agricultural lands, an important water catchment and environmentally important grasslands. (Federation for a Sustainable Environment)

Top News

Global anti-coal alliance booms: The Powering Past Coal alliance has expanded to 26 countries and states with California, Sweden, Ethiopia and Latvia announced as new members at the One Planet Summit convened by French President Emmanuel Macron. The alliance has also announced that 20 major companies, including Unilever, Storebrand, EDF and Iberdrola, have also joined the alliance. As the anti-coal alliance grows, the Trump Administration is reportedly considering asking Australia, China, India, Poland, Japan and Indonesia to join a pro-coal coalition. (Reuters, BusinessGreen, Climate Change News)

Queensland Premier vetoes Adani loan bid: Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has formally informed the Australian Government that Queensland will veto Adani’s application for a concessional loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility for the construction of the coal railway from the Carmichael mine to the Abbot Point coal port. Palaszczuk, who holds a narrow majority in the new state parliament, vowed to cancel the loan after being dogged by anti-Adani protests during the first week of the election campaign. The cancellation of the loan — reported to be for A$900 million (US$680 million) — is a major setback for Adani’s hopes of obtaining finance for the whole Carmichael mine project. China Merchants Bank has become the fourth Chinese bank to rule out financing Adani’s project. (Brisbane Times, Market Forces)

Potential German Government coalition partner warms to coal phase out: The leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) of Germany, Martin Schulz, has told the party’s convention that Germany needs to phase out coal power in conjunction with a transition plan for affected communities. However, Schulz did not nominate an end date for coal power. At the convention delegates approved the SDP negotiating with Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance over the formation of a coalition government. Preliminary discussions are set for December 13 with formal talks in January. (Clean Energy Wire)

Protest against lack of enforcement of India’s coal plant pollution standards: A coalition of health and environmental groups has called on the Indian Government to enforce national water and pollution control standards which came into effect on December 7. Despite the announcement of the standards in 2015, an estimated 300 coal plants do not comply with them. Greenpeace India estimates sulphur dioxide emissions in India have increased by 32 per cent over the last five years and particulate matter by 34 per cent over the same period. (Greenpeace India, EndCoal)

India’s anti-corruption agency charges NTPC official: The Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s national anti-corruption agency, has charged NTPC’s Director (Finance), Kulamani Biswal, for allegedly seeking 500,000 rupees (US$7800) in cash from BGR Mining and Infra, a mining company that was recently awarded a contract for the development and operation of the Talaipalli mine.  Two executives with BGR Mining and Infra have also been charged. NTPC, a publicly owned utility, generates about one-quarter of India’s electricity. (The Hindu)

Ex-Eskom official defends construction company payments: France Hlakudi, the former manager of contracts for Eskom’s has rejected allegations he took bribes from Tubular Construction Projects, which was a contractor on the construction of the part-built 4800 MW Kusile coal plant.  In a statement from his attorney, Hlakudi confirmed Tubular paid his company, Hlakudi Translation and Interpretation, almost 20 million rand (US$1.5 million) for projects undertaken as part of the construction company’s corporate social investment program, including translation work. (Moneyweb, TimesLive)

Burning coal to generate electricity is one of the dirtiest and most destructive ways of generating power,”

wrote Theresa May, the British prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party.

“Burning #coal to generate electricity is one of the dirtiest and most destructive ways of generating power” writes British Prime Minister Theresa May


India: Criminal complaints filed against JSW Group and Mormugao Port Trust over higher than permitted coal imports.

India: Investigation finds JSW Group company failed to meet green belt conditions at lignite mines in Rajasthan.

India: Adani seeks compensatory tariffs for its coal plants in Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

South Korea: Of nine proposed or part-built new coal plants, only one may be converted to gas.

Russia: Murmansk Region Governor urges relocation of coal port to address pollution concerns.

Taiwan: The Ministry of Economic Affairs resists plan to impose tighter regulation on coal plant pollution.

US: Californian Attorney-General files brief in support of Oakland Council ban on coal port.

Vietnam: Two former chairmen of PetroVietnam arrested [in Vietnamese] over project irregularities including the Long Phu 1 and Thai Binh 2 coal-fired power plants.

Companies + Markets

At Paris climate conference French companies step up divestments: AXA, the world’s second-largest financial services company, has announced it will increase its coal divestment from the €500 million (US$587 million) announced in late 2015 to €2.4 billion (US$2.8 billion) by excluding 100 companies that generate over 30 per cent of their revenue from coal. AXA also announced it will “stop insuring any new coal construction projects.” ING also announced by 2025 it would not finance utilities with over five per cent coal power and end finance by then for individual coal plants. It also stated it will only accept utilities as new clients if they have less than 10 per cent of revenue from coal but they must have a plan to have no coal by 2025. (Guardian, AXA, ING)

Huge hike in Philippines coal tax: A key Philippines parliamentary committee has voted to increase the tax on coal from the current 10 pesos (20 US cents) per tonne to P50 (US$1) per tonne in 2018, increasing to P150 (US$3) per tonne in 2020. The increase, while lower than the P300 (US$6) per tonne tax initially proposed by the Senate, was approved despite opposition from the coal and other business lobby groups. The budget package will be voted on by both houses of Congress in mid-December before being sent to President Duterte to be signed into law. (Rappler, Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities)

European coal plants falter: A new report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative estimates 54 per cent of the 619 coal and lignite power stations in European Union countries are losing money, with nearly all expected to be loss-making by 2030 as carbon prices rise and pollution upgrades are required. The report estimates onshore wind generation will be cheaper than operating existing coal plants by 2024 and utility scale solar by 2027. (Guardian)

Decision on US coal bailout plan deferred: US Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, has agreed to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) request for a 30-day extension to decide on a “grid resiliency” rule aimed at bailing out coal and nuclear power plants. The delay coincides with leaked photos revealing Bob Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, presenting Perry with a plan to bail out coal plants at a meeting in late March 2017. Murray Energy was a major donor to the Trump campaign. Murray hosted a fundraising dinner for Trump in 2016 and one in 2011 for Perry himself when he was campaigning to be the Republican nominee to challenge Obama. (Vox, In These Times)

Australian utility resists government pressure to keep old plant open: AGL, Australia’s largest utility, has rejected lobbying by the federal government to keep the 2000 MW Liddell coal plant open beyond its planned closure date in 2022. A review by AGL estimated that the cost of keeping the plant open would be $A106 (US$80) per megawatt hour (MWh) compared to a mix of renewables, gas, batteries and the upgrade of a coal unit at a nearby plant costing A$83 (US$63) per MWh. (RenewEconomy, Sydney Morning Herald)

General Electric slashes power division jobs on coal, gas slump: General Electric (GE) will cut 18,000 jobs from its power division, 18 per cent of the unit’s workforce, due to the slump in demand for new coal and gas power plants. GE attributes the downturn, in part, to the rapid growth of renewables. In mid-November Siemens announced it would cut 6,900 jobs mostly from its power division, pointing out that it expected demand for large turbine, most for gas and coal plants, was expected to be about 110 units a year compared to the global manufacturing capacity of 400 units a year. (New York Times, General Electric)


Lignite of the Living Dead, Carbon Tracker, December 2017. (Pdf, Registration Required)

This 48-page report reviews all operating coal and lignite plants in the European Union and finds that nearly all are likely to be losing money by 2030. It also includes responses to key claims against renewables made by coal lobby groups.

Investors vs the Paris Climate Agreement, Urgewald, BankTrack, Les Amis de la Terre and Rainforest Action Network, Re:Common, December 2017. (Pdf)

This 16-page report identifies the world’s top 120 coal plant developers — which are responsible for two-thirds of the proposed new coal-fired power stations — and their institutional investors.

“Banks vs. the Paris Agreement: Who's still financing coal plant development?”, BankTrack, Urgewald, Friends of the Earth France, Re:Common and Rainforest Action Network, December 2017.

This report documents the role of the top 20 banks in backing the world’s largest 120 coal plant developers.