ADB urged to ‘clarify’ position on coal retirement mechanism proposal before COP26 in UK


AN alliance of nongovernment organizations from across Asia on Monday called on the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to clarify details of its coal retirement mechanism proposal before the 2021 Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, UK.

This, as the ADB bares plans to launch on November 3 its Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM), a private-sector-led initiative to retire existing coal power plants early, starting with a pilot phase in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

The CSOs believe that the ADB should delay the announcement until it has addressed a number of practical concerns about this proposal, including the risk it could undermine an ambitious, swift, and just transition from coal in targeted areas.

In an open letter to ADB management and board members, major donor governments and supporters of the initiative, including Prudential, SE4All, Rockefeller Foundation and Bezos Fund, civil-society organizations across Asia instead demanded ADB to forego the announcement.

They insisted that injustices wrought to communities by coal power projects come to an end as soon as possible, but they pointed out that there are no assurances the ADB’s ETM will actually shorten rather than prolong the lifespan of coal facilities.

According to them, it is also not clear whether the ADB’s plan will hasten the transition to renewables and protect end-users from exposure to increased costs of power.

They said that power plants in the target countries are not subject to market pressures and thus any buy-outs will have to contend with state support and opaque power purchase agreements.

Moreover, they said that civil society and community stakeholders from these countries have yet to be informed of the details of the ETM in their own languages, to have opportunities to be consulted, seek clarity, and provide input.

“We urge ADB not to gamble with our climate survival and the possibility of ending coal in a swift, just, and genuinely transformative manner with a premature buy-out scheme that remains shrouded in uncertainty,” the letter says.

“Civil-society organizations and communities from around South East Asia have called on the ADB to address glaring concerns on the alignment of the proposal to genuine energy transition and transformation before seeking political and financial support for it, yet the Bank seems fine with ignoring such concerns. While it could be a step in the right direction to free developing nations from the clutches of coal, the ETM as it stands gives no assurance that it will actually shorten the life of coal-fired power plants,” Gerry Arances, executive director of Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) in the Philippines, lamented.

He added that the ADB has not even provided adequate consultation with civil society over issues such as whether electricity users will bear the costs of bailing out coal plant operators.

“As climate-vulnerable and economically burdened people, we cannot afford to have ADB gamble with premature coal phase-out plans, which to us is no less than a matter of life and death,” he said.

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