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COP26 aims to banish coal. Asia is building hundreds of power plants to burn it

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On the coastline near India’s southern tip, workers toil on a pier carrying a conveyor belt that cuts a mile into the Indian Ocean where the azure waters are deep enough for ships to berth and unload huge cargoes of coal.

The belt will carry millions of tonnes of coal each year to a giant power plant several kilometres inland that will burn the fuel for at least 30 years to generate power for the more than 70 million people that live in India’s Tamil Nadu state.

The Udangudi plant is one of nearly 200 coal-fired power stations under construction in Asia, including 95 in China, 28 in India and 23 in Indonesia, according to data from U.S. nonprofit Global Energy Monitor (GEM).

This new fleet will produce planet-warming emissions for decades and is a measure of the challenge world leaders face when they meet for climate talks in Glasgow, where they hope to sound the death knell for coal https://www.reuters.com/business/cop as a source of power.

Coal use is one of the many issues https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/sticking-points-un-climate-conference-2021-10-18 dividing industrialised and developing countries as they seek to tackle climate change.

Many industrialised countries have been shutting down coal plants for years to reduce emissions. The United States alone has retired 301 plants since 2000.

But in Asia, home to 60% of the world’s population and about half of global manufacturing, coal’s use is growing rather than shrinking as rapidly developing countries seek to meet booming demand for power.

More than 90% of the 195 coal plants being built around the world are in Asia, according to data from GEM.

Tamil Nadu is India’s second-most industrialised state and is one of the country’s top renewable energy producers. But it is also building the most coal-fired plants in the country.

“We cannot depend on just solar and wind,” a senior official at Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corp told Reuters.

“You can have the cake of coal and an icing of solar,” he said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.

HOOKED ON COAL

Despite dramatic jumps in renewable energy output, the global economy remains hooked on coal for electricity. In Asia, coal’s share of the generation mix is twice the global average – especially in surging economies such as India.

In 2020, more than 35% of the world’s power came from coal, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Roughly 25% came from natural gas, 16% from hydro dams, 10% from nuclear and 12% from renewables like solar and wind.

This year, coal demand is set for a new record, driving prices to all-time highs and contributing to a worldwide scramble for fuel.

Record coal demand is contributing to a rapid rise in emissions in 2021 after a fall last year, when restrictions on movement for billions of people to slow the pandemic caused fuel use to plummet.

While some of the new coal plants under construction will replace older, more polluting stations, together they will add to total emissions.

“The completion of the capacity that is already under construction in these countries will drive up coal demand and emissions,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst with the Centre for Research on Energy and Clear Air.

The carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the new plants alone will be close to 28 billion tonnes over their 30-year lifespans, according to GEM.

That’s not far off the 32 billion tonnes of total worldwide CO2 emissions from all sources in 2020, according to BP, highlighting how tough it will be for leaders gathering in Glasgow – including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – to make meaningful progress on climate change.

India’s Environment Secretary Rameshwar Prasad Gupta told Reuters in a recent interview that India was on track to reach its target of cutting back the country’s carbon footprint, and with that coal, too, would fall – but it cannot be abolished.

“Look, every country has its strengths. We have coal, we have to depend on it,” Gupta said.

“Our position is once you take up targets of reducing carbon intensity, that will have impact … Leave it to us whether we do it in coal, or somewhere else.”

Anil Swarup, a former Coal Secretary, took the same line in an interview. “Renewable energy expansion is critical, but coal will remain India’s main energy source for the next 15 years at least, and production needs to be ramped up to address our energy needs,” he said.

CHINA CRUNCH

Across India, 281 coal plants are operating and beyond the 28 being built another 23 are in pre-construction phases, GEM data show.

These numbers are dwarfed by China, the top global coal miner, consumer and emitter, whose leader, President Xi Jinping, is not expected to attend COP26. More than 1,000 coal plants are in operation, almost 240 planned or already under construction.

Together, coal plants in the world’s second-largest economy will emit 170 billion tonnes of carbon in their lifetime – more than all global CO2 emissions between 2016 and 2020, BP data show.

Despite also boasting the world’s largest renewables capacity, China is now suffering a major energy crunch and has urged coal miners to raise output.

That’s likely to boost coal consumption in the near term, even though China plans to reduce coal use from 2026.

Even so, total global coal consumption looks set to rise, driven by accelerating use in South and Southeast Asia, where projects under construction will raise coal-burning capacity by 17% and 26% respectively.

AFTERLIFE

Even in economies committed to slashing emissions, coal’s grip remains strong.

Japan, with its nuclear power industry in crisis since the Fukushima disaster, has turned to coal to fill the gap and is building seven large new coal-fired power stations.

Leading generator JERA plans to add clean-burning ammonia to be used with coal to help meet its target to be carbon neutral by 2050, and potentially keep old units operating longer.

On a bay near Nagoya, JERA’s 30-year-old, 4,100 megawatt Hekinan station – once Asia’s largest – supplies electricity to the likes of auto giant Toyota Motor Corp.

Like many power plants, Hekinan’s boilers rely on fuel from top exporters such as Australia, where coal is both a vital source of revenue – $18 billion in the current financial year – and a bone of contention with allies urging ambitious emissions cuts. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/australian-pm-refuses-commit-phasing-out-fossil-fuels-2021-09-26

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to attend the Glasgow talks. But resources minister Keith Pitt has said there would be demand for coal for decades and made it clear the country would not be swayed by pressure from banks, regulators and investors to hobble the industry.

“While the market exists, Australia will look to fill it,” Pitt said.

($1 = 1.3398 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan in Udangudi, Aaron Sheldrick and Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo, and Melanie Burton In Melbourne; Additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi; Editing by Gavin Maguire, Simon Webb and Kenneth Maxwell)

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Omicron: Should you travel and what insurance will you need? – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Experts are divided on whether travel is advisable in light of the Omicron variant spurring restrictions at the border and new travel bans leading into the holiday season.

On Tuesday, the government announced travel bans for 10 countries and added that fully vaccinated travellers arriving by air from international destinations other than the U.S. would be required to take a PCR test upon arrival, and quarantine while awaiting the results.

Some travellers are having second thoughts amid the confusion, and Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure Inc., told CTV News Channel that the confusion at airports over the new PCR test requirement is likely to grow.

“There’s nothing clearly stated as to how it’s going to work — are they getting it done there, are they lining up with thousands of other people, are they getting a take-home test, are they going to wait and isolate three days till test results — incredibly confusing right now, in all aspects,” he said.

“I’m seeing right now there’s many people that are making a decision to cancel their flights or cancel their trips.”

Firestone said that booking an international trip for January or February might not be the best idea.

“They maybe have to be on hold,” he said.

“I’m looking at summer 2022 as the best chance to start going to Europe and Asia and places such as that.”

So far, just how dangerous Omicron might be is unclear, making it another question in the calculus of whether travelling is advisable. Scientists are studying the variant in the hopes of pinpointing whether it causes more severe illness, but so far cases have shown largely mild symptoms, and no deaths have been connected to the variant.

However, preliminary data suggests that those who have previously had COVID-19 are at a higher risk of reinfection from Omicron than other variants.

Currently, there are 18 cases of Omicron in Canada.

Not everyone is jumping to cancellations, according to Richard Vanderlubbe, president of tripcentral.ca and a member of the board of directors for the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), but “new inquiries and new bookings have slowed down.”

“We were at about a 40 per cent of the 2019 level just prior to that,” he told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview. “And it was rising. So I think people are pausing and they’re trying to figure out what this means.”

Many who had planned Christmas trips are likely going to go through with them and simply plan for the added requirements at the border, he said, adding that whether to travel or not is up to where a person is going and how important it is to them to make that trip.

“I think what’s happening with government testing right now at airports is long overdue,” he said. “And we need to be able to create an environment where people are safe, that we’re vaccinated, […] the testing is available, it’s not [difficult] in terms of costs, that’s convenient and we get the results quickly.”

Firestone believes that it’ll be simplest to go to the U.S. this holiday season, if a person is set on getting away despite the added restrictions.

“Going to the U.S. right now, again, if everything’s properly done, including now the new one-day rapid test, negative test, that has to be done before you get into the U.S., that could still be plausible,” he said, adding that published health measures such as masking still need to be followed.

“But I think that’s the best bet at this point, is a U.S. holiday, possibly a sun destination holiday, although you’re going to face the large crowds coming back in, getting the negative PCR test. So it’s just nothing simple anymore, and I’m hoping that we get a bit of a holiday season and then travel eventually [can] open up again.”

IF I DO TRAVEL, SHOULD I GET INSURANCE?

Travellers worried about insurance should be aware of a couple things, Vanderlubbe said.

One is that since the blanket advisory against non-essential travel was lifted by the government in October, medical insurance policies for travel are now, in general, covering COVID-19 related medical claims, he explained.

“There was a time when the advisory was out that the insurance plans did not generally cover it,” he said. “And you had to buy separate insurance.”

When it comes to cancellation insurance, after some struggles earlier in the pandemic to get airlines to issue refunds when flights were cancelled by the airline itself, airlines are now generally covering any sort of involuntary cancellation where the airline decides not to operate the flight.

“There’s not a lot of risk now for consumers in booking something and then the government comes and, let’s say in the future slaps on a restriction on a certain destination and they cancel all the flights — you won’t lose your money,” Vanderlubbe said.

That leaves voluntary cancellation, which is when a person decides themselves that they no longer wish to fly.

“I’m looking at the arrangements and I’m looking at these things going on and maybe I’m getting cold feet and I don’t necessarily want to travel,” he explained.

Considering the shifting landscape right now, a traveller who is concerned that they may want to back out later — due to fears of COVID-19, due to falling ill themselves before the flight, or due to other unforeseen complications — may want to consider a waiver or other type of insurance that could aid them if they want to cancel a flight voluntarily.

“If you change your mind, at least you don’t lose all your money, you can rebook it as a credit,” Vanderlubbe said.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

In Asia, South Korea again broke its daily records for coronavirus infections and deaths and confirmed three more cases of the new omicron variant as officials scramble to tighten social distancing and border controls.

The 5,352 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) on Saturday marked the third time this week the daily tally exceeded 5,000. The country’s death toll was at 3,809 after a record 70 virus patients died in the past 24 hours, while the 752 patients in serious or critical condition were also an all-time high.

As the delta-driven surge threatens to overwhelm hospital systems, there is also concern about the local spread of the omicron variant, which is seen as potentially more infectious than previous strains of the virus.

The country’s omicron caseload is now at nine after the KDCA confirmed three more cases. The new cases include the wife, mother-in-law and a friend of a man who caught omicron from a couple he drove home from the airport after they arrived from Nigeria on Nov. 24. The couple’s teenage child and two other women who also travelled to Nigeria have also been infected with omicron.

A woman walks near a banner that reads, ‘Mandatory mask wearing,’ at a park in Goyang, South Korea, on Saturday. (Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press)

Officials say the number of omicron cases could rise as some of the patients had attended a church gathering involving hundreds of people on Nov. 28.

While the emergence of omicron has triggered global alarm and pushed governments around the world to tighten their borders, scientists say it remains unclear whether the new variant is more contagious, more likely to evade the protection provided by vaccines or more likely to cause serious illnesses than previous versions of the virus.

Starting next week, private social gatherings of seven or more people will be banned in the densely populated capital Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, which have been hit hardest by delta and are now running out of intensive care units.

To fend off omicron, South Korea has required all passengers arriving from abroad over the next two weeks to quarantine for at least 10 days, regardless of their nationality or vaccination status. The country has banned short-term foreign travelers arriving from nine African nations, including South Africa and Nigeria.


What’s happening across Canada

A 10-year-old girl is administered a COVID-19 vaccine shot as her eight-year-old sister reacts at a drive-thru clinic in Kingston, Ont., on Saturday. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

  • More than 1,000 public-sector workers placed on leave over N.S. vaccine mandate.

What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday, more than 265 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.2 million.

PHOTOS | Thousands protest restrictions in Dutch city:

In Europe, thousands of people marched peacefully through the Dutch city of Utrecht on Saturday to protest the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures. Meanwhile, Princess Beatrix, the country’s 83-year-old former queen, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the royal house announced Saturday.

In the Americas, Rio de Janeiro cancelled its famed New Year’s Eve party, becoming the latest Brazilian city — after Sao Paulo and Salvador — to halt holiday celebrations due to omicron fears.

In Africa, South Africa is being hit by a fourth wave of infections driven by the new variant that has been detected in seven of the country’s nine provinces, its health minister said.

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Thailand seizes $88 million worth of crystal meth bound for Taiwan

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Thai authorities intercepted nearly 900 kg (2,000 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine hidden in a cargo shipment at Bangkok’s Port Custom Office and bound for Taiwan where it could be sold for up to $88 million, a customs official said on Saturday.

The drug was seized by customs officials late on Friday, hidden in powder form inside 161 white silicon slabs in packages destined for Taiwan.

“The 897 kg of crystal meth is worth about 500 to 600 million baht ($15 million to $18 million), but once they reach their destination they will be worth 3 billion baht in market price,” Thai Customs Director-General Patchara Anuntasil told a press conference on Saturday.

Patchara said that Thai and Taiwanese authorities were both investigating.

The methamphetamine market has continued to expand and diversify in East and Southeast Asia, unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic.

In October, police in neighboring Laos seized a record https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/laos-police-seize-record-drugs-haul-golden-triangle-2021-10-28 haul of 55 million methamphetamine tablets and over 1.5 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine tablets in the Golden Triangle region where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet.

The Golden Triangle has a long history of illicit drug production and has recently served as a massive production centre for amphetamine-type stimulants, especially methamphetamine, used by Asian crime syndicates with distribution networks reaching as far as Japan and New Zealand.

($1 = 33.8400 baht)

 

(Reporting by Artorn Poonkasook and Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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