Despite the global boom in renewable energy, many new coal-fired power plants are planned or under construction, particularly in fast-growing Asia. Curtailing the expansion of these plants and redirecting the flows of overseas public finance to renewables instead is a vital part of efforts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
WWF’s REpowering Asia initiative focuses on driving systemic change in public overseas finance for the power sector in the major 'supply' countries of China and South Korea and reducing demand for new coal by accelerating the transition to renewable energy in the 'demand' countries of Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Myanmar.
WWF is uniquely positioned to take on this dual-pronged strategy to address new coal and drive the shift towards renewables given its convening power in the region; its access to public sector decision makers; and its foothold in the most significant new coal countries.
The recent IPCC 1.5°C special report calls for a reduction in global coal capacity by 60-80% by 2030 and almost 100% by 2050. New and planned coal plants risk increasing global emissions and taking the world beyond a 1.5°C pathway. Curtailing new coal projects in Asia is an essential part of the global effort to phase-out coal by 2050.
The majority of global funding for new coal power comes from overseas public finance, so stopping its flow in a smart, constructive way can be a game changer. It will also reduce incentives for private investors by increasing their investment risk.
A shift towards investment in a renewable energy transition will help prevent locking in carbon emissions and set an example for other developing and emerging economies facing coal expansion risks in Asia and Africa.
In 2019, the only region worldwide in which coal demand increased significantly was Southeast Asia.
Advocating for policy changes
We are working to provide robust information to governments and public financial institutions about the environmental (including climate), social, financial and political risks associated with coal power investments. We encourage them to better account for such risks, in order to provide incentives in support of renewable energy in both supply and demand countries.
In supply countries, we work to demonstrate the economic, financial and political risks of continuing to finance coal overseas to national policy-makers, regulators and public finance institutions. We also highlight the opportunities for job creation, technology and future competitiveness by investing in a renewable energy transition abroad.
This approach can only succeed if there is reduced demand for coal finance from the recipient countries and increased demand for renewable energy financing. So, in demand countries, we focus on achieving policy changes to increase renewable power generation, while also promoting more renewable projects to attract public finance and reduce demand for foreign investment in new coal.
Supporting collaboration between supply and demand countries
We work to connect policy-makers and renewable industry leaders in supply and recipient countries to establish a channel for information sharing about the potential risks of coal investment and the opportunities for renewables, especially for investors.
The Renewable Energy Accelerators Roundtable was established on COP25, which aims to explore effective solutions including solid policy support, an innovative finance mechanism and practical business models. It does this by gathering all forces through information sharing, capacity building and demonstration projects to accelerate renewable energy in the region.
International renewable energy diplomacy
WWF is working to leverage its international standing to facilitate diplomatic contacts between progressive governments and alliances wanting to end coal, and China and South Korea in particular. We are working with supportive governments through a number of key coalitions, including the Powering Past Coal Alliance led by the UK and Canada, the Climate Vulnerable Forum whose members have committed to a 100% renewable future and the non-G20 Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform who advocate an end to fossil fuel subsidies.
These diplomatic exchanges will be arranged bilaterally or in side events during regular international meetings such as the G20, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and UN Climate Change COPs, among others.
Solar PV and wind power have so far shown a degree of immunity to the COVID-19 crisis, with renewables-based generation increasing by 3% in the first quarter of 2020.