Jul 16 2013

Scientific American: How Much Coal Can Poor Countries Burn?

The World Bank board of directors could today endorse a sweeping new energy policy that for the first time restricts financing for new coal plants in poor countries, bank officials confirmed.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Export-Import Bank will decide later this week whether to move forward with the proposed financing of a new coal plant in Vietnam, making it the first test of President Obama’s vow to end American support for coal projects overseas.

Together, the moves bring to a boil long-simmering issues in global climate change politics. In an era in which scientists say the link between carbon emissions and the devastation brought about by rising global temperatures is incontrovertible, what right should poor countries have to seek aid to burn coal? Meanwhile, what responsibility do wealthy countries — most of which have been burning coal for decades — now have in deciding where to put limited public dollars for overseas energy development?

“Africa is still largely underdeveloped, and the barrier to Africa’s development consists largely of its energy poverty. So we, too, as Africans, want to get to a state of development, and in getting to that state of development, we would not want to be the sole contributors to mitigating what we haven’t caused. I think that is the tension,” said South African Ambassador to the United States Ebrahim Rasool.

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