Vietnam Kicks Coal – Is This Coal’s Vietnam?

November 5, 2021

Southeast Asia is one area most at risk from rising seas and intensifying storms.
It’s also been a growth market for coal burners – but that seems to be ending.


Vietnam made a surprise commitment at the COP26 climate summit to stop building new coal power plants, as Southeast Asian nations once seen as growth markets for the fuel start to turn their backs on it.

Vietnam was a full signatory to a U.K.-backed pledgeat the conference calling for countries to stop permitting and building new coal power plants, and to fully transition away from the fuel by the 2030s for major economies and by the following decade for developing countries. 

The move, along with Vietnam’s pledge on Monday to reach net zero emissions by 2050, came as a surprise, said Caroline Chua, an analyst with BloombergNEF. Coal power has grown from about 18% of Vietnam’s total to more than 50% in the past decade.

Power Magazine:

At least 23 nations, including five notable coal-dependent countries—Indonesia, Vietnam, Poland, South Korea, and Ukraine—made new commitments during the COP26 conference in Scotland on Nov. 4 to phase out unabated coal power.

In total, 47 countries supported the “Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement” at the international climate talks underway in Glasgow. In the statement, they committed to cease new construction of and issuance of new permits for “new unabated” coal-fired plants and end “new” direct government support for unabated international coal generation. In addition, the countries are committed to “rapidly scaling up deployment” of clean power generation and boosting energy efficiency measures. They will also work to “rapidly scale up technologies and policies” over the next 10 years to support a transition away from coal in the 2030s for major economies and in the 2040s globally. 

Along with Indonesia, Vietnam, Poland, South Korea, and Ukraine, countries that signed the statement include Albania, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Chile, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Philippines, Portugal, Senegal, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, Sri Lanka, the UK, and Zambia.

The Manchin Factor limited US participation:

New York Times:

More than 40 countries pledged to phase out coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, in a deal announced Thursday at the United Nations climate summit that prompted Alok Sharma, the head of the conference, to proclaim “the end of coal is in sight.”

But several of the biggest coal consumers were notably absent from the accord, including China and India, which together burn roughly two-thirds of the world’s coal, as well as Australia, the world’s 11th-biggest user of coal and a major exporter.

The United States, which still generates about one-fifth of its electricity from coal, also did not sign the pledge.

The new pact includes 23 countries that for the first time have promised to stop building and issuing permits for new coal plants at home and to eventually shift away from using the fuel. Among them are five of the world’s top 20 power-generating countries: Poland, Indonesia, South Korea, Vietnam and Ukraine.

The decision by the United States to abstain appeared to be driven by American politics.

President Biden’s domestic agenda is split between two pieces of major legislation that have been pending on Capitol Hill and that hinge on the support of Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia. Mr. Manchin’s state is rich in coal and gas, the senator has financial ties to the coal industry and he is sharply opposed to any policy that would harm fossil fuels.

Two administration officials in Glasgow said discussions with the British government over the pledge to end coal stretched into Wednesday night, with the United States arguing in favor of an exception for coal plants that have technology to capture and store carbon dioxide. (Only one such plant has been built in the United States to date, and it ceased operating this year.)

Ultimately, though, U.S. officials decided that signing the pledge could anger Mr. Manchin, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the negotiations. A spokeswoman for Mr. Manchin did not respond to a request for comment.

The White House National Security Council said in a statement late Thursday that the coal pledge “includes specifics on permitting that is under legal and technical review” by the federal government and added that the administration’s considerations for joining “are based solely on that reasoning.”

4 Responses to “Vietnam Kicks Coal – Is This Coal’s Vietnam?”

  1. jimbills Says:

    All of these COP26 items are good – they’re something – but they are all only touching the very edges of what’s needed. It’s like turning in a homework assignment of a 20-page essay with a fancy title page, a compelling opening paragraph, a bibliography, and the rest only blank pages.

    Here are the downsides to the recent coal phaseout announcement:

    1. None of the major coal users and producers have signed on, including China, the U.S., India, Australia, and Russia.

    2. The deadline for the phaseout is vague at best – it says 2030s for smaller countries and 2040s for larger ones.

    3. It is just a pledge, with no repercussions to signatory countries for not meeting it.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      And the major downside…

      …it doesn’t swear off gas. The worst thing we can do is keep burning coal. The second worst is to substitute gas for coal—same level of warming but with somewhat less pollution…and no aerosols. Lots less air pollution but the effects of fracking on groundwater may be so durable it’s actually worse for the world. And keeping the same level of warming while reducing aerosol cooling will lead to catastrophe.

  2. indy222 Says:

    ah – wonderful! A “committment”! That means we can trust them to follow through, right? Regardless of the effect on their economic growth. We saw how well that flew in every IPCC and COP from the past 30 years.

    “But no! Really. We mean it this time!”

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “In the statement, they committed to cease new construction of and issuance of new permits for “new unabated” coal-fired plants and end “new” direct government support for unabated international coal generation. ”

    ‘Unabated’ coal power generation is described by the G7 and the IEA as referring to the use of coal power that is not mitigated with technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, such as Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS).

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