Uproar as US industrial giant GE plans to buy Sh 40b stake in Lamu coal plant

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#CoalNiSumu (Coal is Poison) demonstrations against the planned development of  coal projects in Lamu and Kitui counties. PHOTO/PAWA254

By PATRICK MAYOYO

newsdesk@reporter.co.ke

America’s digital industrial giant General Electric plans to buy a Sh 40 billion ($400 million) stake in a Chinese funded coal plant on Lamu Island in Kenya.

Lamu Island is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site and is famed for its hospitality, a rich culture and a fabled past.

Lamu is among UNESCO world heritage sites across the globe facing threats from coal projects and climate change. UNESCO is the organization that is responsible for protecting the cultural and natural heritage of the world and places it considers too valuable to sacrifice for the sake of profit.

Coal like oil or natural gas is a fossil fuel which it produces carbon dioxide and other Greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions result in climate change which is blamed for causing droughts, floods, diseases, food shortages and water scarcity among other environmental and health complications.

Plans by Kenya to set up a coal plant in Lamu is against The Paris Agreement entered that entered into force on 4 November 2016. The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees celsius.

Massive air pollution from a coal plant. Residents of Lamu County and environmental conservationists are opposing a proposed coal plant there. PHOTO/PEXELS

Environmental conservationists argue that the coal project will be Kenya’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and may be Kenya’s single largest emitter of toxic substances to the environment.

Subsequently, 56 investors with $713 billion in assets have called on General Electric to reconsider its plan of buying a stake in the Kenya coal plant at a time the world is divesting from fossil fuels and investing in clean energy.

Environmental conservationists have launched a global campaign against the GE plans and now collecting signatures to petition the company CEO John Flannery to pull out of the Lamu coal plant deal. Click here to stop General Electric from poisoning the Lamu tourism paradise

The GE plans to buy a stake in the Lamu coal plant is even against US senators decision to petition the the African Development Bank not to finance the controversial $2bn plant. GE is one of America’s largest companies, but this last year, it’s stocks took a nosedive.

A group of investors in U.S. conglomerate General Electric (GE) has publicly opposed its plans to buy a stake in a Kenyan coal-fired plant, claiming the project would damage the environment and undermine efforts to fight global warming according to Reuters.

In a public letter to GE, nearly five dozen institutional and individual shareholders called on the company to reverse course on its intentions to purchase a 20 percent stake in a planned 1,000-megawatt coal plant on Kenya’s Lamu island.

The move follows years of controversy over the Kenyan government’s plans to build East Africa’s first coal-fired power plant on Lamu, a United Nations World Heritage site.

The project has divided communities, and environmentalists fear the plant will destroy the marine environment of the region, a tourist destination that is one of the best-preserved Swahili settlements.

Lamu residents protest against the planned coal plant. PHOTO/COURTESY

It was unclear how of much GE stock the letter’s signatories hold. The information was not included in the missive, and their spokeswoman said she did not have the data.

Among those signing the letter was the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, an association of more than 70 United Kingdom-based public sector pension funds with about $300 billion in assets under management. Also signing were several religious groups.

“We are alarmed by apparent risks involved with the coal plant’s construction and operations,” said the letter, delivered to GE on Wednesday.

“The plant will negatively impact human health as coal production releases toxic pollution into the air and leaves behind ash that can contaminate groundwater supplies,” it said.

The plans also are “at odds” with GE’s stated support of the 2015 Paris agreement to fight climate change, it said.

“Bringing on plants that incorporate marginally improved technology but will lock in the use of coal for decades is the wrong direction – for Kenyans and for the world’s climate,” it said.

Kenya promised to cut carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030 as part of the agreement in Paris, where nearly 200 countries agreed to fight global warming.

Plans by the Chinese to invest in a coal plant in Lamu come at a time the Chinese government says it will invest 2.5 trillion yuan (£300 billion) into the renewable energy sector.

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