“We need to stop the creation of new power plants based on coal in the future.”
Coal is the most environmentally harmful source of energy as burning it is driving climate and polluting the air we breathe.
Yet even as many developed nations like Germany has pledged to shutter all their coal-fired plants in coming years, countries like China and India are going full speed ahead with yet more coal. That is why if we are to make meaningful progress on the causes of manmade climate change globally, Asian nations will need to kick their addiction to coal, stresses the United Nations’ Secretary-General António Guterres.
The larges-scale burning of coal “remains a major threat in relation to climate change,” Guterres said during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bangkok. Countries in Asia that carry on burning plenty of coal are also among nations that are the “most vulnerable” to climate change, he added.
Guterres was referring to a new study whose authors argue that by 2050 global rises in sea level will have inundated low-lying coastal areas around much of Asia. Climate Central, a US-based non-profit news organization which is behind the report, says that by mid-century nearly 300 million people across Southeast Asia could be living in areas that will be below high-tide lines.
The reason is that an inexorably warming climate will melt massive ice sheets at the poles, triggering significant rises in sea level. Thriving cities like Bangkok, Singapore and Shanghai could be permanently flooded as a result. Tens, or perhaps hundreds, of millions of people could be made homeless from Bangladesh to Vietnam and from China to the Philippines.
Yet despite the urgency of drastically reducing CO2 emissions and fast, numerous nations — not least in South, Southeast and East Asia — are set to be burning yet more coal in vast quantities in coming years. The solution lies in reducing our global dependence on coal, the UN chief stresses.
“We have to put a price on carbon,” Gutterres says. “We need to stop subsidies for fossil fuels. And we need to stop the creation of new power plants based on coal in the future,” he argues.
Countries in the region could be at “the front line of carbon pricing, of stopping subsidies to fossil fuels, and of stopping the construction of coal power electricity plants in order to be able to defeat climate change and to preserve the beautiful cities like Bangkok and others that we want as a legacy to humankind forever,” Gutterres says.