China-backed coal plants on EU’s doorstep hide huge carbon costs

(Climate Change News, 14 Jan 2020) Feasibility studies for two major coal power projects in Bosnia and Serbia – backed by Chinese banks – downplay the costs of emissions and ignore air and water pollution.

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Two huge Chinese-backed coal projects on the EU’s doorstep are going ahead by using over-optimistic projections of profitability and by ignoring severe concerns about pollution, according to an Unearthed investigation.

The 450 MW coal power plant project in Tuzla, Bosnia, which is due to replace existing ageing units, and a planned 350MW plant in the Serbian town of Kostolac could become stumbling blocks for the two nations’ efforts to join the EU.

The plants highlight China’s growing role as a source for coal projects in the Balkans shunned by western lenders because of concerns about climate change and pollution. The Bosnian plant has been described in Chinese media as part of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” initiative, a trade and infrastructure network linking Asia with Europe and Africa that revives ties along the ancient Silk Road.

Previously unpublished documents, obtained and translated by Unearthed and examined by experts, show the feasibility studies used to seek and obtain approval for the power stations massively under-estimate the costs the plants will face once Bosnia and Serbia join the EU’s carbon market, a condition for joining the bloc.

That could leave local taxpayers on the hook, since parliaments in both countries have provided state guarantees to China on the loan repayments of hundreds of millions of euros. Serbia is negotiating to join the EU, perhaps in 2025, after applying in 2009. Bosnia is further back in the queue after applying in 2016.

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Climate Change News, 14 Jan 2020: China-backed coal plants on EU’s doorstep hide huge carbon costs