U.S. anti-coal dominoes hit BRICS wall, other skeptics

Tue Aug 12, 2014 6:03pm EDT
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By Anna Yukhananov and Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A year ago, U.S. President Barack Obama sought to mobilize the nation behind a grand plan: fight climate change by slashing carbon pollution at home, while prodding other countries to follow.

A key part of that strategy was for the United States to stop using public money to finance the construction of most coal-fired power plants abroad, seen as one of the main causes of rising pollution from heat-trapping gases.

But a year later, momentum has stalled on the Obama administration's plan for a global "domino effect" that would choke off financing for coal projects from public lending institutions around the world. Some key lenders continue to finance coal projects, and the Export-Import Bank of the United Stastes has put its ban on hold.

In the past year, Japan has approved funding for three major coal plants in energy-thirsty emerging markets. And Germany, typically a leader in global climate action, continues to support coal projects.

Observers say a new development bank from the BRICS group of emerging markets - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - is also unlikely to follow strict coal limits when it launches in two years.

If countries move away from coal as a fuel source, they are likely to do so for reasons other than a lack of public funding.

In 2012, according to the World Resources Institute, almost 1,200 coal-fired power plants had been proposed globally, with China and Pakistan accounting for the majority of the projects.


Steam rises from the stakes of the coal-fired Jim Bridger Power Plant supplied by the neighboring Jim Bridger mine that is owned by energy firm PacifiCorp and the Idaho Power Company, outside Point of the Rocks, Wyoming  in this March 14, 2014 file photo.   REUTERS/Jim Urquhart/File