Climate change a ballooning problem for developing world

Feature story - August 21, 2002
As governments from around the world prepare for the Earth Summit next week in Johannesburg, Greenpeace today launched a hot air balloon with the message "Save the Climate - Stop Global Warming" over the biggest coal-fired power station in South East Asia to protest against the continuing growth of fossil fuels in the region.

"Climate change starts right here at Mae Moh and everywhere we continuously and recklessly burn fossil fuels," said Penrapee Noparumpa, Greenpeace South East Asia climate campaigner. "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."

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.

"We are also calling on the Thai government to immediately overturn all approvals for new fossil fuel power plants, including those proposed for the province of Prachuab Kiri Khan, to adopt a 30% target for power generation from renewable energy sources by 2020 and to phase out all direct and indirect susbsidies to polluting fossil fuels by 2007," said Noparumpa.

Mae Moh is the oldest, largest and dirtiest fossil-fuel power plant in Thailand. The power station complex covers 135 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.

"The Thai government must not repeat the mistakes committed in building Mae Moh," said Noparumpa. "Coal plants not only contribute to dangerous climate change but result in massive social, environmental and health impacts to local communities and residents."

"This reveals some of the hidden costs of building coal-fired power stations. Coal is not at all cheap. It is dirty, it is expensive, it damages the climate and results in the disintegration of host communities," said Noparumpa.

"Like developing countries around the world, Thailand is hungry for clean, reliable and affordable power. 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. "

Today's 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.