October 4, 2018
Issue 248  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

Members of the United Nations International Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are meeting in Incheon, South Korea, this week to discuss their findings for holding global warming to 1.5℃, the target set by the Paris climate agreement. Meeting the target will require much deeper cuts in the use of fossil fuels, particularly coal, according to IPCC scientists.

In the US, the Trump Administration is preparing to roll back emissions of mercury from power plants, and is desperately trying to salvage the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh who, in 2014, wrote in a dissenting opinion that most health benefits should not be considered when considering the value of environmental regulations. If confirmed, Kavanaugh could provide the decisive vote in future cases challenging Trump’s rollbacks of Obama-era environmental regulations.

Energy surpluses spell trouble for coal producers in India, while in South Africa and Kosovo, bankers are backing off proposed coal projects. And South Chungcheong Province in South Korea joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance.

—James Browning, CoalSwarm


IPCC to recommend much deeper cuts in coal burning

According to an international panel of climate scientists, keeping global warming to 1.5℃ will require utilities by 2030 to burn a third as much coal as they do now, writes Jeremy Hodges in Bloomberg.

Trump Administration to roll back regulation of mercury emissions

A plan to undo Obama-era regulations of mercury emissions from power plants is being prepared by the Trump Administration’s EPA Director (and former coal lobbyist) Andrew Wheeler, writes Coral Davenport for The New York Times.

Opposition likely defeats 2,800 MW coal plant in Vietnam Long An Province

The plan to build a 2,800-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant in Long An southern province near Ho Chi Minh City is likely to be cancelled due to the provincial leadership’s opposition, writes Trung Chanh in The Saigon Times.


Season of Clean Energy in the Philippines

Environmental groups in the Philippines marked the Catholic Church's “Season of Creation” in September with week-long demonstrations against dirty energy sources in the country. Residents from communities near coal mines held simultaneous protest rallies in different parts of the country to dramatize their call for the government to end its “coal obsession.” (UCA News)

Top News

Japan’s Prime Minister calls for reduction in fossil fuel use: Shinzo Abe wrote in The Financial Times that Japan must reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, yet Japan is the only G7 country still planning new coal-fired power stations, with more than 17 generating units in the planning stage and 15 under construction. After China, Japan is also the largest public funder of coal-fired plants, investing US$14.5 billion over the past five years. (Business Green)

World Bank reconsiders financing of Kosovo coal plant: The World Bank may withdraw support for a proposed 500 MW coal plant in Kosovo, the last coal project in the bank’s project pipeline that is not subject to its 2013 moratorium on coal project finance. The Kosovar government had signed a deal with US-based ContourGlobal in 2017 to build the plant at a cost of around €1 billion, but the bank is now finalising a study that will compare investment in coal to other options before choosing whether to provide finance for the project. (Reuters, Bretton Woods Project)

South Korea province joins coal phase out alliance: South Chungcheong Province, which is home to half of South Korea's coal power generation, has joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, becoming its first member in Asia. With 18 gigawatts of coal power, the province is the largest user of coal power to join the Alliance. The government is reportedly responding to concerns from local residents over air pollution. (NRDC)

Kavanaugh confirmation to US Supreme Court threatens environmental protectionsWhile working to roll back regulations of mercury emissions, the Trump Administration is also desperately trying to salvage the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, who once argued that any health or environmental side benefits resulting from the rule (such as reductions in deaths due to lower particulate emissions) must be excluded from the cost/benefit analysis. If confirmed, Kavanaugh could provide the decisive vote in future cases challenging Trump’s rollbacks of Obama-era regulations. (The New Republic, Environmental Working Group)

Hambach Forest Protesters Evicted: As German police continue their crackdown on protesters occupying the Hambach Forest, activists called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to intervene and prevent the forest’s destruction. A lawyer for Greenpeace argued that “there is no existing law that allows RWE to clear Hambach Forest under any circumstances, at any time and to any extent.” RWE is seeking to expand its adjacent coal lignite mine. (Deutsche Welle, Focus)

“We are on the edge and the climate impacts that scientists warned us about decades ago are here. . . This IPCC report will make clear the choices and the trade-offs. For decision makers around the world, it is now their responsibility to listen and step up with real climate leadership,”

writes Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan in a press release on the IPCC 1.5℃ report.


Australia: AGL says it remains committed to closing its Liddell coal plant by 2022.

Russia: Pension reforms by President Vladimir Putin will force male coal workers in Vorkuta in Komi Republic to work until the age of 60, despite an average life-expectancy of 56 for men in Komi.

South Africa: Plans to build new coal-fire plants in Thabametsi and Khanyisa uncertain after Standard Chartered’s decision to limit its investments in new coal plants.

Bosnia: EU energy watchdog Energy Community urged a Bosnian regional parliament to reject a China Exim Bank loan for a new unit at the Tuzla coal plant.

UK: A report detailing human rights abuses and regulatory violations by mining giant Vedanta was released as the company delisted itself from the London Stock Exchange on October 1.

US: Scientists challenged findings by Duke Energy that coal ash spills caused by Hurricane Florence and subsequent flooding had not contaminated the Cape Fear River.

Companies + Markets

Coal consumption by US power producers falls to lowest level since 1983: US power producers generated almost 6 percent less electricity from coal in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017, even as total power generation rose almost 5 percent, with gas-fired generation up 17 percent. (Reuters)

Indian projections of higher power surpluses portend trouble for Indian coal producersNew reporting shows that plant load factors (PLF’s) for coal and lignite plants dropped from 77.2% in 2008–2009 to 59.9% in 2017–2018, a historic low. (Power)

Western Europe may have built its last coal plants: Citing high coal costs, increasing climate regulations, and a growing reluctance by banks to finance coal, Goldman Sachs’s global co-head of natural resources Gonzalo Garcia said western Europe may have built its last coal plant. Garcia also cited the UK’s pledge to phase out coal by 2025 and Germany’s commission on a coal phase-out as evidence the region was moving irrevocably away from coal. (Bloomberg)

Queensland coal mine fire halts production for Q4 and possibly longer: A fire in Peabody’s North Goonyella coal mine in Queensland, Australia, will take the mine out of production from “four months to forever,” according to one analyst. After Peabody declared bankruptcy in 2016, NGO Lock the Gate Alliance warned that the more than A$1 billion cost of rehabilitating its mines could fall to Queensland taxpayers. (S&P Global Platts, Lock The Gate Alliance )

Pakistan’s HubCo power plant connects to the grid: The 1320 MW HubCo power plant in Pakistan’s Balochistan province has successfully connected to the national grid, and is planned for commercial operation in 2019. This plant is part of the 2015 China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) agreement, which committed US$45.6 billion of Chinese financing for energy generation and infrastructure projects in Pakistan. Also under the CPEC is the 1320 MW Sahiwal power station and the 1320 MW Port Qasim EPC power station, which were commissioned in 2017 and early 2018, respectively. (The International News, CoalSwarm)


Łęczna IGCC Project: High Costs and Unreliable Operations Can Be Expected, IEEFA, September 2018

This 15-page report finds that the proposed “clean coal” plant at Leczna risks high build costs and unreliable operation, given the real-world experience of similar technology in the United States.

Country-level social cost of carbon, Nature Climate Change, September 2018

This study on the “social cost of carbon” estimates the expected damages from carbon dioxide emissions to have a median global value of US$417 per tonne. The analysis finds that the US, China, India and Saudi Arabia will be economically hardest hit by climate change.