How has Thailand and Nigeria kicked off 2021’s energy challenge?

Welcome BACK to Climate Weekly! 

Today we have a special edition, with 2 different contributors. We’re featuring Nigeria’s Vivian Chime, and Thailand’s Nanticha Ocharoenchai.

With all the focus on the US in the last week, we hope that these global stories might spark your Monday intrigue


Share

Sawadee ka! 

This is Lynn, or Nanticha Ocharoenchai, and I’m writing to you from Koh Tao in Southern Thailand.

While we remain fairly safe from the coronavirus, here, the community and its dive schools have been hit particularly hard. What seemed to me like an optimistic trend trend toward sustainability last year has now faded, and our tourism dependant economy is headed for a slow recovery.

On the climate front, Thailand and its neighbours remain relatively ambivalent to ideas of significant reductions, or Net Zero, despite powerful signals from regional heavyweights China, Japan and South Korea.

However, relations between Thailand and Laos recently soured over a mega-dam power sharing agreement. After building a series of large hydropower dams along the Mekong River, Laos has a goal to transform itself into the “battery of Southeast Asia”.

Until recently, it was believed that the Thai government would be a key energy customer for Laos, but in a win for environmentalists Thailand has rejected new technical reports on the impact of the dams due to “insufficient and out-of-date data”. 

These dams were heavily criticised by ecologists and activists for their impacts on the environment, as well as downstream communities who can see a dramatic decline of fish stocks.

This follows a number of positive shifts across Thailand, which plans dramatically increase its share of renewables from 12 to 37%, with the lions share coming from solar power

This includes what could be the world biggest floating solar farm in the world. The 45-megawatt floating solar farm is planned to work in tandem with an existing hydropower dam, and is the first of 15 more like it over the next 20 years

Image: Thailand Business Review

Though it’s not all good news as Thailand also recently signed a power-purchase agreement with a Burmese enterprise to develop a new natural gas power plant in Yangon


Ndewo nu! (Hello, everyone in Igbo!)

I am Vivian Chime, and that is a greeting in Igbo, one of the three largest tribes in Nigeria. I am writing to you from my apartment in Calabar, capital of Cross River state, Nigeria.

It’s safer indoors these days as Nigeria’s COVID-19 burden has begun to skyrocket. We are set to receive our first 100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, but this is just  a drop in the ocean for a country of over 200 million people. 

You might have heard about the groundbreaking legal finding in the Netherlands, where a Nigerian Subsidy of Shell lost its appeal and has been ordered to pay damages to Nigerian farmers affected by oil spils in the Niger Delta.

Friends of the Earth told Reuters that the ruling “exceeded all expectations” and marks the first time a multinational had been instructed by a Dutch court to uphold a duty of care for foreign operations.

This is massive news, especially for the communities across the Niger Delta, especially off the back of a recent move to restore its mangrove forests.  

Nigeria is home to Africa’s largest Mangrove ecosystem, but we simply don’t value them.   While mangroves have been shown to have multiple co-benefits when it comes to climate change, our mangroves have been severely depleted over the years due to oil exploration, human exploitation and industrialization. 

However, the restoration efforts are uncertain, as research from Bogor University suggests that oil contamination could further damage the mangroves. This is particularly concerning when you consider that the Niger delta is both the site of our oil wealth and mangroves.   

Gas flaring is another critical element of our economy. Unfortunately my country ranks among the top 10 gas flaring countries in the world. There were plans by the federal government to exit gas flaring by 2020.

However, since missing that target, we are now looking to align with the World Bank’s 2030 target, aimed at eliminating regular gas flaring.

There is some hope for renewables in the mix, with the announcement of a 10 megawatt solar-power plant in the North-western town of Kano, but this remains a small % of our overall gas and diesel led energy mix.


That’s it for now.

We’ll be back to our regular Friday newsletter this week. If you have any questions, comments or want to get involved, email me at chris@climatetracker.org.