Quick fixes may deepen energy, climate risks  

THE Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) efforts to finance renewable energy (RE) and not false solutions such as fossil gas should be scaled up before it’s too late, according to civil society organizations (CSOs).

In a briefing on Thursday, NGO Forum on ADB Energy Campaigns and Policy Strategist Tanya Lee Roberts-Davis said investing in fossil gas, or “short-sighted technocratic fixes” such as carbon capture technologies, should be replaced with investments in clean energy sources.

Roberts-Davis said attendees at the recent Asia Clean Energy Forum 2022 were mainly composed of private proponents who were pushing for the adoption of “risky, speculative projects such as green and blended hydrogen” and have the most to gain from these proposals.

“So, who has been in the room so far that we’ve seen at the Asian clean energy forum? It’s been primarily private-sector proponents, centering the discussion on risky speculative projects, such as green and blended hydrogen production and carbon capture projects, waste-to-energy projects and others,” Roberts-Davis said.

“For these we remain highly cognizant that the key actors behind the push for a hydrogen society and for the expansion of carbon capture schemes are primarily oil and gas companies. As by design, these are the ones that will reap the profit of prolonged reliance on fossil fuels,” she added.

Roberts-Davis said the ADB should heed the call of CSOs. If the aim of ADB is to help the region attain net-zero, it must invest in renewables which is the only way the bank can meet the Paris Climate accord.

Roberts-Davis: “We are reiterating our
collective assertion to the ADB that the surest way to tackle economic climate and energy injustice, and to support a rights-based pathway that aims to avoid overshooting 1.5 degrees, would be to pivot entirely away from the systems that are carbon-and resource-intensive, as well as heavy greenhouse emitters.”

“So in this regard, in relation to ACEF, we are reiterating our collective assertion to the ADB that the surest way to tackle economic climate and energy injustice, and to support a rights-based pathway that aims to avoid overshooting 1.5 degrees, would be to pivot entirely away from the systems that are carbon- and resource-intensive, as well as heavy greenhouse emitters,” she stressed.

Fossil gas is not clean energy, as explained by Avril de Torres of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), who said these are composed of methane that traps heat in the atmosphere “far more effectively than carbon dioxide.”

De Torres said because of this, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also said in its 2021 assessment report that methane emissions should also be drastically reduced.

What is worrisome, she said, is that Southeast Asia already has 117 gigawatts while East Asia has 77 gigawatts of new fossil gas power plant capacity that are still in the construction phase.

In the report “Financing a Fossil Future,” CEED said 29.9 gigawatts of capacity is currently planned to expand gas development in the Philippines. Half or 14.1 gigawatts of the proposed gas expansion is being undertaken by San Miguel Corporation Global Power Corporation (SMC Global Power).

“Alarmingly, 84 percent of total financing for midstream gas projects mapped in the report are found to have been linked to public financial institutions. But ADB’s financing is not limited to the midstream industry that is also found to have funded the 2,500-megawatt gas power plants,” De Torres said.

“As ADB hosts its annual ACEF, we want to remind them that fossil gas is not a clean energy. It is primarily composed of methane which leaks into the atmosphere at every stage of its life. Methane traps heat in the atmosphere far more effectively than carbon dioxide,” she added.

Plastic problem

In a statement, Yobel Putra, of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives-Asia Pacific, said apart from these, plastic is also on track to become a bigger climate problem compared to coal.

Waste-to-energy (WTE) incineration is considered as a false climate solution, Putra said in a presentation on Thursday, since it is a carbon-intensive process that undermines carbon neutrality.

This is the reason for the European Union’s decision to exclude WTE from its Sustainable Finance Taxonomy and “gradually withdraw” its financing for these types of activities.

“It harms rather than supports the transition to a circular economy [discouraging waste prevention and recycling] while tending to lock in an increasing generation of waste over time,” he said in a presentation.

“Substituting one form of dirty fossil fuel with another and claiming it as renewable is greenwashing. Worse, ADB’s suggestion to couple its climate harming projects with carbon capture technology is a huge distraction. Our time is running out, ADB should stop becoming a climate criminal before it is too late,” he also said in a statement.

Civil society groups from across Asia are condemning the Asian Development Bank’s Asia Clean Energy Forum 2022, hosted from June 14 to 17, as failing to provide a platform for discussion about real climate and energy solutions grounded in science and the lived realities of the region’s diverse communities.

To highlight critical concerns about the ADB’s proposed and current energy investments, a range of events are being organized online and in person by community groups and their allies.

Image credits: Jimmy Domingo

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