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Asia Minute: Much of the Indo-Pacific still runs on coal

Climate COP26 Emissions China Coal climate change
Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Smoke and steam rise from towers at the coal-fired Urumqi Thermal Power Plant in Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 21, 2021. Global carbon pollution this year has bounced back to almost 2019 levels, after a drop during pandemic lockdowns. A new study by climate scientists at Global Carbon Project finds that the world is on track to put 36.4 billion metric tons of invisible carbon dioxide. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

One of the biggest topics at the U.N. climate conference this week is coal. More than 40 countries have agreed to phase out the burning of coal entirely, although that list does not include the United States, China, India or Australia. But in the Asia Pacific, there is other movement toward cutting the use of coal.

China and India together account for nearly two-thirds of the coal burned in the world.

About 20% of electricity in this country comes from burning coal — including a plant on Oʻahu.

For Australia, coal remains a leading export.

Japanese national broadcaster NHK quoted government officials as saying it’s important for Japan, as “a resource-poor nation surrounded by the ocean, to use various sources of energy in a balanced way.”

While none of these Indo-Pacific countries signed up to eliminate their use of coal, some regional economies have agreed to phase out coal.

That includes Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and New Zealand.

As for more gradual change, India, along with Indonesia and the Philippines is joining the “Accelerating Coal Transition” program — which involves funding to transition away from the fossil fuel to cleaner alternatives.

There are other financing moves afoot — including a program by the Asian Development Bank to pick up the pace of closure for coal-fired electricity plants.

The pilot program will launch in Indonesia and the Philippines — two countries whose economies remain heavily dependent on coal — which produces more than two-thirds of the power used in Indonesia and nearly 60% of the electricity used in the Philippines.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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