TheAustralian: India Environmentalists have challenged the Australian government to prove its commitment to combat climate change by lobbying to end millions of dollars in subsidies for so-called “efficient” coal-fired power stations in developing nations.
The UN last week ruled that a proposed 4000MW coal-fired power station in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh was eligible for $165 million worth of carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.
The project is one of five proposed major coal-fired power stations across India and China to receive approval in recent months.
Another 12 firms have applied to the UN for CDM status for proposed, more-efficient, “supercritical”, coal-fired, power stations to replace ageing “sub-critical” technology in those two countries.
If approved they will attract $5.3 billion in subsidies from carbon-emitting companies in the first world who seek to offset their greenhouse gas emissions by sponsoring so-called clean energy projects in the developing world and earn carbon credits.
Coal-fired power stations are the world’s biggest source of man-made greenhouse gases.
In Australia, where a carbon tax will be imposed on the country’s 500 greatest greenhouse gas emitters from next July, the practice has sparked fierce debate over such policy incentives.
The CDM was intended to reward developers of clean-energy projects in poorer nations by allowing them to offset the costs by selling carbon credits to emitters in developed nations.
But under the current regime, if an Australian company burns Australian coal for energy it will attract a $23 a tonne tax. If that same coal is used to produce energy in India or China then it potentially attracts millions in clean energy investment.
Climate Action Network India board member Srinivas Krishnaswamy said the current CDM policy acted as an “indirect deterrent” to renewable energy projects by subsidising business-as-usual energy options.
“It’s a perverse policy,” Mr Krishnaswamy said.
He said Australia had a “moral obligation” to oppose it.
Greenpeace India climate spokesman Siddharth Pathak said the current CDM system benefited energy producers in developing nations — which already have the money to build greener power stations, and Australia — by providing market incentives for major coal buyers India and China, but delivered no environmental gain.
“The CDM needs to be reformed to exclude coal projects, and if Australia were really serious about its climate commitments then it would support that reform but of course it won’t because it gets so much revenue from coal sales,” Mr Pathak said.
The CDM’s own advisory panel this month recommended coal plant offsets be immediately suspended. The advice was rebuffed by the executive board following stiff resistance from India and China.
But the practice has attracted worldwide criticism, including from the Brussels-based CDM Watch, which last week labelled the Andhra Pradesh decision “patently absurd” and accused coal-fired power producers of exaggerating the emissions cuts by as much as 50 per cent.
- Andhra Pradesh at the forefront of Indian ‘coal rush’ (guardian.co.uk)
- CDM AR did not fail and is not dead (chimalaya.org)
- India takes unique path to lower carbon emissions (chimalaya.org)
- Abbott: the future is bright, brown (theage.com.au)
- U.N. Panel Calls for Offsets to New Coal-Fired Plants to Be Suspended (scientificamerican.com)
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