As China reduces its domestic reliance on coal, it’s building hundreds of coal-fired power plants overseas

The New York Times reports:

Across a narrow channel from this historic port town, where baobabs tower over the forest and tiny crabs skitter in and out of the mangroves, Kenya could soon get its first coal-fired power plant, courtesy of China.

The plan’s champions, including senior Kenyan officials, say the plant will help meet the country’s fast-growing demand for electricity and draw investment. Its critics worry that it will damage the area’s fragile marine ecosystem, threaten the livelihoods of fishing communities and pollute the air.

The battle over the project, which is frozen pending the outcome of a court case, reverberates far beyond Lamu, a 700-year-old Indian Ocean port town of coral-lime houses and carved wooden doors that has been designated a Unesco world heritage site.

The plan embodies a contradiction of Chinese global climate leadership: The country’s huge coal sector is turning outward in search of new markets as coal projects contract at home. A Chinese multinational is tapped to build the $2 billion, 975-acre project, and a Chinese bank is helping to finance it. The project is among hundreds of coal-fired power plants that Chinese companies are helping to build or finance around the world.

It represents a test for Kenya as well. While its leaders describe the Lamu plant as a source of cheap, reliable electricity, the country is also seeking to become a renewable energy hub, with huge solar and wind projects in the works and a promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Coal could upend those goals. [Continue reading…]

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