EPA – REJECT THE ‘CLEAN COAL’ MYTH

PRESS RELEASE : WORLD ENVIRONMENTAL DAY 2016

Today marks World Environment Day 2016. It is another reminder to humanity to safeguard the environment and protect and preserve the planet for future generations.

The Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM) and key allies— Ghana Youth Climate Coalition (GYCC), Green African Youth Organization (GAYO-Ghana) and Hipsters of Nature acknowledge the role that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is mandated to play in this regard.

We strongly urge the EPA to put the interest of people and the environment first in all decision-making concerning the 2x350MW coal fired power plant project led by the VRA and Shenzhen Energy Group to commence in April 2017. We particularly encourage the EPA to reject the ‘clean coal’ myth preached by proponents of the plant in an attempt to give impetus to importing coal pollution into Ghana. The Environmental Movement is adequately informed by available research information that:

  • Designation of a technology as a ‘clean coal’ technology does not imply that it reduces emissions to zero or near zero. For this reason, the term ‘clean coal’ is misleading
  • No clean coal technology sufficient to cut emissions from current generators by up to 50 per cent is economically viable at industrial scale or expected to become viable within the next five years
  • According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), state-of-the-art, Ultra-Supercritical (USC) plants can run at up to 46 per cent efficiency. On World Coal Association estimates, those efficiency gains mean a USC plant could emit up to 40 per cent less than a regular, existing power station. It is important to note that the USC technology is even an upgrade over the Supercritical technology to be deployed in Ghana. This technically means the proposed technology in Ghana is likely to be shrouded with more emissions.

On the other hand, investments and employment in renewable energy around the world are rising against all odds:

  1. US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) have provided $704k for a100MW solar power project in Ghana
  2. The world’s largest coal supplier The Shenhua Group of China is partnering with SolarReserve, a Carlifornia company to build a giant 1000MW solar plant in China
  3. Portugal reached a zero emission milestone on May 7, 2016 as the whole country was powered by just wind, solar and hydro-generated electricity for 107 hours
  4. Solar generated more power than coal over a 24hr period in early April 2016 to set a new British record. Meanwhile, coal-generation hit historic low several times few weeks after in what experts say are the only occasions since the first coal-fired generator opened in London in 1882
  5. On Sunday May 8, Germany hit a new high in renewable energy generation. Germany had so much renewable energy on Sunday that it had to pay people to use electricity
  6. Renewable energy surges to record levels around the world. New solar, wind and hydropower sources were added in 2015 at the fastest rate the world has yet seen.

These are just examples of the path the whole world is taking— a transition from dirty energy to clean energy. The World Bank last month offered stark warnings that proposed power plants in India, China, Vietnam and Indonesia would blow Paris climate deal if they move ahead. We believe Ghana should also listen to this counsel.

GYEM will continue to urge the EPA to be firm on its mandate and responsibility to protect the environment without compromising on the health of the people of Ghana and the integrity of our ecosystems.

Cc:     Volta River Authority (VRA)

Ministry of Energy

Ministry of Power

Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation (MESTI)

All Media Houses

Official Statement: We REJECT Coal Power in Ghana

Dear Volta River Authority (VRA) and Shenzhen Energy Ghana,

With reference to your publication in the Daily Graphic newspaper dated January 8, 2015, page 27, titled ‘Scoping Notice’, we wish you bring to your attention our concerns about the 2x350MW Supercritical Coal Fired-Power Plant as follows:

  1. We first of all acknowledge that the 120 page Scoping Report only sets out and validate the extent of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the project and ascertain the significance of the impact of potential key areas. It is not an ESIA in itself and hence not the absolute document for the justification of the project. However, for the environmental movement in Ghana, it serves as a very important document on the path of rejecting coal power in Ghana and recommend other alternatives to coal;
  1. Within the few weeks of circulating the Scoping Report to different organizations, civil society platforms, environmental coalitions and indeed the media, we came to a shocking conclusion that a greater section of the public and the media were not adequately aware and informed about the project. We therefore call for a number of coordinated public hearings and press conferences to further discuss it and most importantly involve individuals, organizations and institutions that responded to the Scoping Notice you served with phone calls, emails and in writing;
  1. Our major concerns about the project are the environmental pollution and health impacts of the activities leading to construction and operation of the coal fired power plant. Although the ESIA will make a frantic effort to quantify the extent of the related environmental impacts, we are well aware of the devastating health and environmental impacts of coal fired power plants across everywhere on this globe. Coal is a foreign pollutant in this part of the globe and indeed the Scoping Report duly acknowledged that there is limited knowledge of coal power use in this part of the world. But we are very much aware of the high level of fly ash, particulate matter (PM10), smog and other thermal pollution related impacts associated with the operation of coal power plants and hence making judgements based on the experiences of their use and impacts elsewhere is very important;
  1. We are very much aware of the tons of waste- about 5 million tonnes of ash waste (per annum) that would be generated from the plant, the air pollution of poisonous and hazardous gases that are injurious to heath, the discharges into water bodies that threatens aquatic life forms (including turtle breeding grounds close to the project site) and the destruction of the natural environment. While it is important for the ESIA to clearly communicate this for a progressive public debate, we are adequately informed by evidence of coal fired power plants elsewhere that the negative impacts are relentlessly devastating to human life and the environment as well as the irreversible nature of these impacts not only on the environment but also on human life;
  1. The Scoping Report indicated that children in Ekumfi Aboano are 55.9% of the entire population of 1,900 people. Children are very vulnerable especially to air-borne pollutants such as PM10 and smog. We are deeply concerned by the undeniable facts available that point to their health been compromised by the coal fired power plant. Ghana being a member of WHO, UN and other global conventions has a national mandate to protect the health of children and the vulnerable in society including those in Ekumfi Aboano.
  1. While we wait for the ESIA to respond fully and appropriately to each impact that would be outlined in that document, we hereby reject the idea of bringing coal power to Ghana on grounds of devastating health and environmental impacts of coal fired-power plants.
  1. In the interim, we are gathering and collecting signatures of individuals and civil society organizations who also reject coal power in Ghana as a petition to Government to abandon plans of bringing coal to Ghana.
  1. Respectfully submitted.

Cc: EPA, Ministry of Environment, Science & Technology

 

Ghana to Invest in Coal Power Though President is Co-Chair of SDGs

The President of Ghana HE John Dramani Mahama has been appointed together with the Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg as a Co-Chair of a group of sixteen influential global figures to support the UN in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

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The appointment, welcomed by many Ghanaians as a testimony of the country’s apparent commitment to sustainable development, was also received with utmost shock by environmental activists, considering that the sub-Sahara African country has advanced plans to build a coal-fired power plant.

The project named as the 2x350MW Supercritical Coal Fired-Power Plant would commence in August 2016 and see a future expansion to a 2000MW plant in four (4) years with between 1,800,000 and 2,050,000 tons of the dirty fuel being imported from South Africa per year. The project is estimated to cost $US1.5bn with partners from China based Shenzhen Energy Group.

polluted-sunset

The contradiction of the President’s new role and the country’s investment in a coal plant to be situated in Ekumfi Aboano, a village in the Central Region of Ghana with a population of 1,900 of which 55.9% are children (GSS, 2014), lies in the fact that Goals 7 and 13 of the SDGs call for Affordable & Clean Energy and Climate Action respectively.

This seems to present a conundrum to President Mahama in articulating his commitment to the SDGs without addressing his leadership over a project that doesn’t only pose severe environmental and public health risks to vulnerable people and communities but also usurps a global just transition from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy. Indeed the Ghanaian leader was a vocal figure in supporting climate action at the Conference of Parties (COP21) held last December in Paris under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Earlier this week, the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM) with its allies—Ghana Youth Climate Coalition (GYCC), Hipsters of Nature and Green African Youth Organization (GAYO-Ghana), among others called for Government to abandon plans to invest in coal power with an online petition because of the “devastating health, environmental and social impacts the plant will cause to communities housing it”. Activists also indicate that investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure such as coal shows a betrayal and lack of commitment and leadership towards fighting climate change.

Organizers from key youth-led environmental organizations are mobilizing for coordinated nationwide actions that would culminate in a mass anti-coal rally to reject coal in Ghana. Meanwhile, the Volta River Authority (VRA), Government’s lead institution in implementing the project with its Chinese partners Shenzhen Energy Group have made public a 120 page Scoping Report that sets out and validate the extent of the Environmental & Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the project and ascertain the significance of the impact of potential key areas.