DHAKA – When the rest of the world is switching to renewable energies, Bangladesh is on the verge of a carbon catastrophe with a large number of coal-based power plants, environmentalists warned on Wednesday.
“Power is essential for Bangladesh... but it should not come through any suicidal project. No project is acceptable at the expense of people’s lives, livelihood, and environment,” said Iftekharuzzaman, the Executive Director of anti-graft watchdog Transparency International Bangladesh.
Iftekharuzzaman made the observation in Dhaka at the launching program of a report titled “Choked by Coal: The Carbon Catastrophe in Bangladesh,” which highlighted the risk of coal-fired power stations.
Australia-based campaign group Market Forces, California-based nonprofit 350, Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BAPA), Transparency International Bangladesh and Waterkeepers Bangladesh jointly launched the report.
According to the report, at least 29 coal-fired power projects with a total capacity of 33, 200 MW are being set up in Bangladesh. If all the projects are built, the country’s coal power capacity would increase by 63 times from the current 525 MW.
Annual emissions from the proposed coal plants would be 115 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2031, higher than the upper emissions estimate for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline between the United States and Canada, said the report.
The report added that 4,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide would be emitted through the operating lifetime of Bangladesh’s proposed coal plants, which is 20 percent greater than the lifetime emissions from all of the currently operating coal plants in Japan.
Chinese banks and companies are leading the dirty energy drive, funding over half of the projects, said the report, adding that the UK and Japan-based companies are involved in three proposed coal projects each, despite transitioning to cleaner energy within their own borders.
“What is happening in the rest of the world over coal, Bangladesh is doing the opposite, though it is not necessary...the situation is turning like that we would be suppressed under coal,” said Abdul Matin, general secretary of BAPA.
The report also warned Bangladesh of the huge trade deficit as the pipeline plants would lock the country into a huge volume of coal import for decades.
“It would cost Bangladesh an estimated $2 billion annually to import large volumes of coal to power the proposed plants. Unless export increases significantly, this would add billions to the negative trade balance,” said the report.
During the fiscal years of 2018 and 2019, the country experienced the largest trade deficit in its history – $18 billion and $16 billion respectively, according to the report.
Iftekharuzzaman said after implementing the projects Bangladesh will also have to share the blame for climate change when the country itself is vulnerable to its catastrophic effect.
“We are taking these projects under pressure from foreign countries. We must back away from it... when we are one of the vulnerable countries to climate change, these will make us one of the worst polluters,” he said.
The Asian Development Bank ranks Bangladesh seventh in the world of countries most affected by climate change. By 2050, with a projected half-meter rise in sea level, 11 percent of Bangladesh’s landmass may be lost, affecting about 15 million people in its coastal areas.