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Sick Of Air Pollution: Pakistanis Among Six Nations Preferring Clean Energy Over Coal

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ISLAMABAD: Citizens of six countries, including Pakistan, have shown a strong preference for clean rather than coal energy, reveals the findings of a survey conducted in current month.

A majority of respondents, ranging between 61% in Pakistan and 89% in Vietnam, selected renewable energy sources when asked about the type of energy they felt their country should invest in for better long-term development.

The first multi-country online survey has been conducted by ‘E3G’ an independent think tank, in six China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) countries, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam.

Coal-fired power is among the lowest priorities in all six countries. The public in these countries want their governments to prioritize encouraging investment in solar, wind and hydro power.

Over 85% citizens of the six countries say they would favor foreign governments, banks and companies that invested in renewable energy in their countries. In contrast, public favor for the foreign entities investing in fossil fuel based sources of energy was found to be much less, ranging between 44% in Turkey and 51% in Vietnam.

In every country the top association with investment in coal power is either that it worsens the climate or increases air and water pollution. 53% respondents linked coal power with climate change and global warming. The public in South Africa, Philippines and Vietnam associated coal power with corruption.

The six countries polled are among top 10 locations for proposed coal power plant construction globally other than China. Results of the poling conducted ahead of BRI Forum for International Cooperation being held on 25-27 April in Beijing clearly highlights that the citizens’ preferences for clean energy are at odds with the government energy policies and investment packages favoring coal.

“This polling provides clear evidence that the citizens of the Belt and Road Initiative countries prefer clean energy investment over coal. China should now work with governments, business and investors at the upcoming Belt and Road Forum to make sure these demands are met,” said Nick Mabey, Chief Executive of E3G.

“The BRI Forum in Beijing provides an opportunity to signal an end for international support for coal investment. Citizens across the member countries know that coal will only continue to exacerbate air pollution, climate change and corruption issues,” said Nick Mabey.

Heavily reliant on thermal power, Pakistan has currently been producing 4% energy from renewable sources. According to International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), however, the total solar and wind capacity has quadrupled from 538MW in 2015 to 2,724MW in 2018

Moreover, the new government supports clean energy and considering a new national policy to increase the contribution of renewables to 30% in national grid by 2030.

Pakistan has attracted Chinese investment both in coal power and renewable energy. It received $ 5.9 billion of Chinese funding for 9.5GW of coal-fired capacity under development. Some of these proposals—the Gawadar, Hubco, Rahimyar Khan and Keti Bandar coal plants—are part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

However due to financial reasons, the government of Pakistan has shelved 1320MW Rahimyar Khan coal plant and removed it from CPEC priority list.

With $2.4 billion invested between 2013 and 2018, Pakistan has attracted an increasing amount of renewable energy investment and seeing more renewables being built under CPEC scheme.

E3G is an independent climate change think tank operating to accelerate the global transition to low carbon economy. E3G specializes in climate diplomacy, climate risk, energy policy and climate finance.

E3G’s summary report ‘Clean Energy, not: Citizens views of Foreign Investment’, providing full details of the polling results, can be accessed at www.e3g.org.

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