JAKARTA, INDONESIA — South Korea announced last month that it will not fund new coal projects overseas in a bid to secure its commitment to reducing emissions.
“To become carbon neutral, it is imperative for the world to scale down coal-fired power plants,” said South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a video address at the opening of a two-day virtual climate summit on 22 Apr.
However, he acknowledged that support and consideration must be given to developing countries that are heavily reliant on a coal economy.
Mr Moon assured that the ongoing projects will not be affected by the decision, including some in Indonesia and Vietnam.
The East Asian economic powerhouse itself is facing sharp criticism for pushing a green policy at home but financing the development of coal-fired power plants in Banten.
South Korea is one of the world’s coal investors besides Japan and China. Japan’s two financial service giants decided to stop financing coal-fired power stations starting 15 Apr, according to an official statement.
A global commitment to curbing emission
Executive Director at ReforMiner Institute Komaidi Notonegoro told TOC that the main target of South Korea and other countries that plan to stop funding coal projects is to slash emissions from the coal itself overall, not merely targeting a specific coal project.
“It is not only from a specific country but a global commitment to reducing emissions from coal. Is it only coal? I think no, but later the termination of funding will target oil and gas, but it all starts from the coal,” said Komaidi.
As Indonesia is pushing a coal downstream sector, it is still unknown that such an industry will be affected by an emission-reduction policy.
One of the ongoing coal-downstream projects is the coal gasification project by Indonesia’s state coal miner PTBA in cooperation with Indonesia’s oil giant PT Pertamina and the U.S investor Air Products and Chemicals Inc, aimed at slashing Indonesia’s LPG import.
“If coal is processed and emissions are lower due to advanced technology, that will be fine,” Komaidi explained.
He added that the removal of fly ash and bottom ash (FABA) from the type of hazardous and poisonous waste, as stipulated in the Government Regulation No.22/2021, was possible due to technology that converts such waste into products like cement and paving blocks.
Fly ash is a product of coal combustion residue, originating from the decomposition of silicate minerals, sulfates, sulfides, carbonates, and oxides contained in coal.
Indonesia continues to push for an emission-reduction target
Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime and Investment and other ministries have pledged to continue their efforts to speed up the target of net-zero emission.
One of the efforts is to increase Indonesia’s investment in renewable energy.
This was conveyed in a multi-ministry joint statement — together with North Kalimantan and Papua regional administrations, as well as energy firms PT Adaro Energy Tbk and Australia-based investor PT Fortescue Future Industries Pty Ltd.
“We believe the support of strong private companies such as Adaro as the largest coal exporter in Indonesia and Fortescue as the largest renewable energy investor is crucial in achieving Indonesia’s net-zero emission target more quickly,” Jodi Mahardi, a spokesperson for the Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investments Ministry said on 3 May.
Worldwide efforts to reduce reliance on coal consumption
It may take some time to reduce worldwide reliance on coal, as it generates 40 per cent of the world’s electricity.
Data from Statista also showed that global coal consumption has been rising since 1998. The consumption jumped to 157.9 exajoules in 2019 from 94.9 exajoules in 1998.
“It’s estimated that in 2019 roughly 11 per cent of global primary energy came from renewable energy.
“If we continue at the current pace, I’m pessimistic about our ability to meet the goals stipulated in the Paris Climate Agreement,” Marc Lewis from Ecowatch told TOC in an e-mail interview.
Using Ireland as a case study, energy expert Peter Keohane explained what a country can do to slash emissions from fossil fuel.
“Globally, we are far too reliant on fossil fuels and it is simply unsustainable. Here in Ireland, we have very few natural, proven deposits of fossil fuels — therefore, making us heavily dependent on imports,” he said.
“At the moment, renewable energy in Ireland only makes up a sliver of our energy mix. The main fuels are oil (56 per cent), gas (31 per cent) and coal (12 per cent).
“Ireland, like most countries, has a fossil fuel addiction. However, there are tiny steps being taken here to change this,” according to the study cited by Keohane.
Such improvements include solar panels. There have also been local initiatives on a small scale in Cork City, where all City Council cars are now powered by electricity.
“The country is progressing, with renewable wind and hydro energy becoming more and more prevalent. It’s a slow burn, but it is a change that must happen,” the study read.
Multiple countries like France, Germany, Poland, Canada, and Denmark have set up a deadline to close their coal power plants. Germany will commit to the cessation of coal usage by 2038, while eight other European Union nations pledge to end the use of coal by 2030.