Climate change a ballooning problem for developing world

Press release - 21 August, 2002
As the Earth Summit nears, Greenpeaces uses its climate balloon to illustrate the problems with coal fired power stations.

Greenpeace launches a Stop Global Warming balloon over the Mae Moh coal plant in Lampang, Thailand.

As governments from around the world prepare for the Earth Summit next week in Johannesburg, Greenpeace launched a hot air balloon with the message "Save the Climate - Stop Global Warming" over Mae Moh, the biggest coal-fired power station in South East Asia, to protest against the continuing growth of fossil fuels globally.

"Climate change starts right here at Mae Moh and everywhere we continuously and recklessly burn fossil fuels," said Athena Ballesteros, Greenpeace South East Asia campaigns manager. "Climate change is the biggest environmental threat facing the planet and developing countries like Thailand are most vulnerable to its effects on agriculture, livelihoods and major ecosystems.

"Fossil fuels are a dirty, old fashioned way to generate electricity and have no place in the 21st century, yet globally, rich developed countries are continuing to push these climate-damaging technologies on the developing world. Hypocritically, many of these same countries are pretending to do something about climate change at home while dumping their dirty technology abroad."

Greenpeace is calling on governments around the world to make a commitment at the Earth Summit to provide affordable renewable energy to the two billion people around the world who live without electricity, to phase out all subsidies to fossil and nuclear fuels, and to ensure that 10% of energy is provided by renewable resources by 2010. Greenpeace is also seeking a commitment that international financial institutions be required to move 20% of their energy investments to clean, renewable energy.

Mae Moh is the oldest, largest and dirtiest fossil-fuel power plant in Thailand. The power station complex covers135 km2 of open cut lignite coal mine and includes 13 power generation units. The mine has operated since 1955. Construction of the power plant units began in 1975 and the last unit was completed in 1995.

"Mae Moh is a typical example of power stations built in the developing world with money from rich countries, seeking to make profits by exporting dirty polluting technology which would not be acceptable in the North," said Ballesteros. "For example the last coal fired power station built in the UK was completed in 1972. Yet the UK, through its Export Credit Guarantee Department has funded fossil fuel and nuclear power generation projects worth US$2.7billion each year, during the last ten years."

The USA and Australia - two of the countries doing their utmost to derail international action on climate change, are also encouraging fossil fuel dependence in the developing world. US corporation Mirant owns and operates some of the biggest coal fired power stations in the Philippines, such as Sual and Pagbilao coal-fired power stations. Edison, another US company - in conjunction with a consortium of US, Hong Kong, Japanese and Thai corporations - is proposing to build two power stations in the Thai province of Prachuab Khiri Khan. Greenpeace is supporting local residents who have campaigned against the proposal for the past 8 years.

Australia provides most of the Philippines' imported coal and wants to expand its Thai market to provide coal for the Edison projects. The UK French corporation, Alstom, has provided technology for several existing coal fired power plants in South East Asia, including Sual in the Philippines, and is planning more.

"Like developing countries around the world, Thailand is hungry for clean, reliable and affordable power," said Ballesteros. "This will only happen if foreign investments coming into the country are diverted away from fossil fuel projects to clean projects like solar, wind and modern biomass. "

The balloon protest is part of the Greenpeace Choose Positive Energy tour of South East Asia with the ship MV Arctic Sunrise. Throughout the tour, the ship's crew, the staff from the Greenpeace office of Southeastasia and other Greenpeace offices have worked with local communities in Thailand and the Philippines to fight the development of dirty, polluting energy and promote clean renewable energy.

Tomorrow Greenpeace will launch its Alternative Energy Scenario for Thailand, illustrating how renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, can meet Thailand's future electricity needs.

Download the backgrounder on the plant here

VVPR info: Pictures will be available on request from John Novis in Amsterdam on +31 20524 9580 or Steve Morgan in Johannesburg on +27 828 58 3449.Video will be available. Contact Linda Voorthuis in Johannesburg on +27 828 58 3288.