After receiving billions of dollars from the United States and other developed countries for “green” energy initiatives, emerging market countries like South Africa and Indonesia are backtracking on their promises. Alexandra Wexler, Sha Hua, and Matthew Dalton report for The Wall Street Journal:
Wealthy nations are sending tens of billions of dollars to poorer ones for clean energy, the linchpin of a global strategy to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in the developing world.
But two of the most ambitious efforts yet—in South Africa and Indonesia—are now at risk of unraveling, sowing doubts about the rich world’s ability to push developing countries away from coal and other fossil fuels.
South Africa and Indonesia, among the world’s most coal-hungry economies, are backtracking on commitments they made to burn less of the fuel under agreements known as Just Energy Transition Partnerships, or JETPs, which offered them $28.5 billion from the U.S. and other wealthy nations. Officials are working to prevent the agreements from falling apart as governments convene in Dubai for COP28, the annual United Nations climate summit.
Resistance from pro-coal politicians in both countries and fears about the economic and technical viability of replacing the fuel quickly are jeopardizing the agreements. South African and Indonesian officials say the money from wealthy countries isn’t what they hoped: Most of it will come in loans, not grants, saddling the countries with more debt.
Climate funding “should be more constructive, not in the form of debts that will only increase the burden on undeveloped or developing countries,” Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said last month.
South Africa’s state-controlled power company has delayed its plans to retire coal-fired power plants. Indonesia says it likely won’t meet a cap for power-sector emissions negotiated under its program because of thousands of megawatts of coal-fired power plants that weren’t accounted for previously.
Their backtracking shows the immense challenge of replacing coal in countries that rely on the fuel not only to generate electricity but also to provide jobs for tens of thousands of miners and facilitate economic development. Coal supports local economies and industries, and politicians have deep ties to mining companies and unions. Developing countries also say they are wary of ditching a reliable fuel source for new technologies that aren’t widely used yet, even in the developed world.
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