Today, Earth Day, Secretary of State John Kerry signs the Paris climate agreement, confirming the United States’ commitment to address global climate change.
At the same time, the U.S. government might finance two huge coal plants in Bangladesh, one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries. Not only would those coal plants hurt the climate, they’d wreck the world’s largest mangrove forest in the process.
The Sundarbans in Bangladesh — a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a safe haven for endangered tigers and dolphins — are under serious threat.1
Orion Group, a Bangladeshi conglomerate, is trying to build two new coal-fired power plants. One would be dangerously close to the rich and irreplaceable ecosystem of the Sundarbans mangrove forest, which sustains the livelihoods of over 500,000 people and is home to the Ganges river dolphin, whose population has dwindled to just about 1,500 worldwide.2,3 The other plant would be right outside the country’s densely-populated capital, polluting the Dhaka air with coal ash and other toxins.
Media reports indicate that Orion has approached the Ex-Im Bank for funding for these harmful coal plants in Bangladesh.4 The bank’s support for these projects would grease the wheels for coal development abroad, while back at home the U.S. moves away from this dirty fuel.
The Paris climate agreement, which the United States joins more than 150 other countries in signing today, commits the international community to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. As a low-lying nation, climate change poses grave risks to Bangladesh in the form of rising seas and stronger storms.5 The Ex-Im Bank’s support for these projects would betray the international climate agreement by funneling taxpayer dollars into dirty coal plants that threaten the habitats of endangered species, a precious ecosystem, and the wellbeing of millions of people. Instead, the bank must be part of the just energy transition and invest in renewables that will help increase access to electricity worldwide and won’t harm our environment.
1. “Bangladesh Sticks With Coal Power Plant Project Despite Major Backlash,” Mongabay, February 16, 2016, http://news.mongabay.com/2016/02/bangladesh-sticks-with-coal-power-plant-project-despite-major-backlash/
2. Dr. Abdullah Harun Chowdhury, “Environmental Impact of Coal Based Power Plant of Rampal on the Sundarbans and Surrounding Areas,” Khulna University, http://bagerhatsociety.com/apanel/admin/download/tdwn2573136.pdf
3. “Ganges River Dolphin,” World Wildlife Foundation, http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/ganges-river-dolphin
4. “Orion Signs Deals for Generators for its 660MW Power Plant,” The Daily Star, May 11, 2014, http://www.thedailystar.net/orion-signs-deals-for-generators-for-its-660mw-power-plant-23556
5. Sönke Kreft, David Eckstein, Lukas Dorsch, and Livia Fischer, “Global Climate Risk Index 2016,” GermanWatch, November 2015, http://germanwatch.org/fr/download/13503.pdf