In this photo on Wednesday, April 29, 2015, Bangladeshi workers are loading coal from a ferry on the Buriganga River in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Credit: AP Photo / AM Ahad
When I mention Bangladesh, people think of a country that is exposed to devastating floods and cyclones. It is true. Right now, millions of Bangladeshis are stranded without safe drinking water and food after the worst floods in more than 120 years have turned parts of the country into an inland sea.
These early monsoon floods are unusual. But it is frightening that record-breaking severe floods and cyclones are becoming normal and happening more often.
While Bangladesh is shaking from climate disasters, research of Market forces shows that it has become a landfill for dirty fossil fuels, coal and gas, the biggest culprits behind our warming planet. Despite the fact that Bangladesh has an abundance of potential for solar and wind energy, Bangladesh is ranked in the top five for global coal and gas power projects under development (with megawatts), according to the Global Energy Monitor.
Most of these expansive fossil fuel projects are being pushed by companies from the US, Japan and China. Japanese companies play a major role.
This week, investors in Japan’s largest companies will vote on climate – focused shareholder decisions. Mitsubishi Corporation, TEPCO and Chubu Electric, joint venture owners of JERA and SMBC Group, have all made variations of rosy statements on net-zero carbon emissions targets by 2050.
Each of these companies faces shareholder decisions due to their involvement in or financing of new fossil fuel infrastructure, including in Bangladesh. The proposals call on companies to really align their business strategies to net zero by 2050 and the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. An increasing number of investors are encouraging companies to act more coordinated.
In Bangladesh, about 20 gigawatts (GW) of brand new, polluting coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) power projects are planned for construction in the Chattogram coastal region of southeastern Bangladesh. Two thirds of Bangladesh’s pipeline projects are focused here. The new energy plans are dependent on imported coal and LNG, which require expensive new infrastructure.
Large Japanese companies and the American conglomerate General Electric are behind the plans, which threaten to lock Bangladesh into decades of unnecessary and unwanted pollution. The global climate impact is colossal. Emissions from the lifetime operation of the planned coal and LNG power projects in the Chattagram region are estimated at 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to five years of Bangladesh’s total emissions at current levels.
These plans run counter to Japan’s commitment to stop coal financing, made through the G-7 in 2021. It is also incorrectly aligned with the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) calls to stop adding fossil fuels to a net zero. emission scenario in 2050.
Energy experts add fuel to the fire and warn that the proposed and existing LNG infrastructure risks becoming economically unaffordable. The worst of these projects are the controversial Matarbari coal-fired power projects.
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) -funded Matarbari 1 project costs $ 6 billion, up to 10 times more than comparable factories in China. It is extremely expensive to build these projects. It is not seen as a practical solution to meet Bangladesh’s future energy needs.
Bangladesh is currently using around $ 1 billion a year on climate adaptation, about the same amount needed to build 1 GW of LNG to run projects on average. And that is without the huge extra cost of importing expensive gas.
Disruptions in the global LNG market are causing shortages and sharp price increases, as demonstrated by Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine. It’s billions of dollars at stake. It is money that Bangladesh could use for climate solutions such as renewable energy and mitigation of the effects of worsening climate disasters.
Bangladeshi families are also facing a tragic toll. Air pollution requires thousands of lives. Bangladesh is the most polluted country in the world, according to the Global Air quality life index. Air pollution takes an average of seven years from the life expectancy of a Bangladeshi. The country’s 165 million people live with air pollution that exceeds the WHO’s safe recommendation.
If built, health impacts related to air pollution from Matarbari 1 and the proposed Matarbari 2 coal projects will cause an estimated 6,700 premature deaths according to the Center for Research in Energy and Clean Air. This week, Japan announced that it would no longer fund the Matarbari 2 coal project, prompting the Bangladeshi government to indicate that it would cancel its construction and opt for LNG instead.
Bangladesh already has more than 100 percent of its electricity coverage for the country. Last year, 10 coal power projects were canceled by the Bangladeshi government.
Bank of China has announced it “will no longer provide funding for new coal mining and new coal power projects abroad“Sumitomo Corporation, the company that builds the Matarbari 1 coal project, has committed to never owning or building new coal plants, including Matarbari 2.
Evidence shows that Bangladesh can meet its future energy needs with renewable sources such as wind and solar, which do not require animals and harmful imports of fossil fuels. According to the government, the country has the potential for 30 GW of solar energy within 20 years. That is more than the country’s total electricity capacity. But this is not fast enough.
Bangladeshis deserve to be safe and breathe clean air. Wealthy nations like Japan and the United States need to support Bangladesh to meet its new power needs with clean, cheap and climate-friendly technologies already enjoyed by large parts of the world.