No Thai stir-fry for the planet

Feature story - August 28, 2002
While world leaders at the Earth Summit feed off the fat of the land and offer excuses for failing to act on climate change, Thailand is doing what other delegates say is too hard. They are rejecting dirty energy in favour of clean renewable energy – they don’t want to fry the planet.

Child from Boh Nok in the Prachuap Khiri Khan province of Thailand holding a paper wind toy.

The Thai government delegation is on its way to the Earth Summit now, and will bring good news with them that the cabinet has decided to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to address climate change.

And the work for a clean, renewable energy future has already begun. The small Thai municipality of Bo Nok began the installation of a wind turbine to generate clean sustainable energy for their local temple with the help of Greenpeace and an international crew from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise.

The people of Bo Nok and neighbouring Ban Krut campaigned for the past eight years against two massive coal fired power stations proposed by foreign developers including the US energy giant Edison.

Charoen Wataksorn, leader of the Love Bo Nok group speaking on behalf of the community says they do not want Edison's coal plant. "We want electricity, but not this dirty, polluting plant Edison wants to build. World leaders at Johannesburg do not know Bo Nok, but they should come and see that even a small community like ours can say no to coal. We want clean energy instead."

Charoen says they are not anti-development and they are not anti-Edison. If Edison came up with a proposal for a renewable power plant, she says they would embrace it. "Leaders at Johannesburg need to look at how development affects the whole community, not just at the financial interests of the multinationals and whether it makes a profit. After all, energy is being made for people to use."

Two of the three countries with the worst record on climate change action are behind the coal plants. Edison's proposed 734-Megawatt plant at Bo Nok would run on coal from PT Adaron mine in Indonesia, which is owned by Australian company New Hope. The 1400 Megawatt Ban Krut plant, proposed by Union Power, Hong Kong Electric, Tomen and other Japanese corporations, would get 80 percent of its coal from Australia, with the remainder coming from Indonesia and South Africa.

The technology that would be used at the plants in Bo Nok and Ban Krut would never meet the environmental and social protection standards in California, home of the Edison Corporation. Yet the companies involved would gladly spend two billion dollars on building these plants that would damage the climate, cloud the air, and choke the children of Thailand.

The dirty energy project that the community of Bo Nok fought against for the last eight years in not uncommon in developing nations. Developed nations, including the US, Canada and Australia, give lip service to helping meet developing nations energy needs, but then push dirty, dangerous and polluting technologies on these countries including nuclear and coal-fired power - technologies that many developed countries are now rejecting.

Thailand has a growing demand for electricity, but it doesn't have to come from coal. Coal is dirty, expensive and it damages the climate. It makes no sense to build new coal plants in Thailand, when the country could get 35 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, even if current consumption doubles.

Thailand's government is setting an example to all leaders at the Earth Summit that these dirty technologies that wreak havoc on our environment must be abandoned in favour of sustainable, clean energy and a healthy future for everyone on the planet. The US, Australia and Canada must follow Thailand's lead and ratify the Kyoto protocol instead of trying to obstruct action on climate change.

We are calling on governments at the Earth Summit to make a commitment to provide affordable renewable energy to the two billion people around the world who live without electricity and ensure that 10 percent of the world's energy is provided by renewable resources by 2010. And no more lip service, leaders need to put the money where their mouths are. We want them to phase out all subsidies to fossil and nuclear fuels and we want a commitment that international financial institutions move 20 percent of their energy investments to clean, renewable energy.