Electricity exposure has changed the globe, helping countries develop their markets, and bringing millions out of poverty. However, this success has come at a great cost: the power sector, heavily dependent on fossil fuels, is liable for some 40 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions–one of the so-called greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the Earth–and almost two-thirds of those emissions come from coal.
But, despite urgently calling for an end to fossil fuels by the United Nations, hundreds of new coal-fired power stations are still being built and hundreds more are in the pipeline. Is the planet ready for a new age of power that is safe, affordable and open to all?
The UN chief called for carbon taxes, an end to the trillions of dollars worth of approximate subsidies for fossil fuels, and a halt to the construction of coal-fired power stations by 2020 if we are to have a chance to end the climate crisis.
Many countries, especially developed economies, are beginning to listen to the message from the United Nations. Nevertheless, Southeast Asia, one of the fastest-growing economic regions in the world, continues to be dependent on fossil fuels as a solution to its energy needs: in November, Mr Guterres told an ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) community meeting in Thailand that carbon "remains a major threat to climate change," adding that Southeast Asian countries are among the most vulnerable in the world.
The region is expected to become a key driver of global energy trends over the next 20 years, according to studies by the International Energy Agency. Millions of people have obtained access to electricity in Southeast Asia since 2000, and the country is on its way to universal access by 2030.
The UN-backed Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) has compiled data showing that after China and India, the country has the third-highest number of coal-fired power plants in the pipeline. Indonesia, Viet Nam and the Philippines, with Malaysia and Thailand not far behind, have the largest coal-fired pipeline in all South-East Asian countries.
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