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9 Mai 2023

Zofeen T Ebrahim, China Dialogue

Pakistan: New plans for Gwadar coal plant raises questions over climate pledges of China and Pakistan

"Coal returns to the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor" 13 April 2023

News that the Pakistan government plans to secure financing and start construction on a long-stalled 300 megawatt coal-fired power plant in the port city of Gwadar has triggered a debate on the direction of the country’s energy sector. Set to be built and funded by Chinese state-owned entities, recent developments have also raised fresh questions about China’s pledge – made at the UN General Assembly in 2021 – not to build any new coal power plants overseas.

The Gwadar plant was first conceived in 2016, with an estimated cost of US$542.32 million. It is to be constructed by the Chinese company CIHC Pak Power, a subsidiary of the state-owned China Communications and Construction Group. The plant was recently reported to have secured financing from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), China’s largest commercial bank. [...]

The environmental impacts of coal power – from local air and water pollution to carbon emissions – have made the project controversial. [...]

Given the devastating impacts of climate change-related extreme weather events that Pakistan has experienced in recent years, Lashari of PRIED argued that both the Chinese and Pakistani governments should “reconsider” their decision to pursue construction of the coal power plant in Gwadar, and instead “replace it with an environmentally clean and green renewable energy project”.

Khalid Mansoor, former special assistant to the prime minister on CPEC affairs, disagrees. He said it may be “fashionable to discuss use of cleaner fuel sources”, but with the Gwadar Free Zone entering its second phase of expansion, this will require huge amounts of uninterrupted power. Mansoor argued that this can only be provided using gas, oil or coal. “The 300 MW coal power plant will be a lifeline for Gwadar,” he asserted.

This was supported by minister Iqbal who said: “In our case, a stable baseload is only possible with coal, which is also the cheapest option.”

“Solar power can be used for homes and other smaller ventures and as a complement to the coal plant; it cannot provide undisturbed electricity to big industries,” agreed Mirza. [...]

Part of the following timelines

Pakistan: Social and environmental impacts of China's Belt and Road Initiative

China's commitment to phase out overseas coal investment