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August 21, 2018

US Senators ask AfDB not to finance 'dangerous' Lamu coal plant

Residents hold placards as they gather in a protest against government plans to build East Africa’s first coal plant in Lamu County, December 6, 2016. /THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATIONS
Residents hold placards as they gather in a protest against government plans to build East Africa’s first coal plant in Lamu County, December 6, 2016. /THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATIONS

Four US Senators have protested against the establishment of a coal plant in Lamu County, citing its dangers and Kenya's progress in environmental conservation.

Jeffrey Merkley, Brian Schatz, Bernard Sanders and Edward Markey wrote a letter to African Development Bank (AfDB), asking it not to finance the project.

They warned that the plant will tarnish Kenya's reputation as a leader in clean energy and worsen environmental quality through millions of tonnes in annual carbondioxide emissions.

The proposed 1,050MW plant will emit as much as 8.8 megatonnes of carbondioxide per year, they noted.

In the letter dated May 28 to the Banks' Executive Director Tarik Al-Tashani, the Senators also said they will lobby against the Chinese-backed plant as it is financially unsound.

"Kenyan experts indicate that by the time the project becomes operation operational, the $2 billion project will create unnecessary capacity yet the government will be obligated to pay $360 million per year in fixed annual capacity payments whether or not the electricity is ever dispatched."

The lawmakers also pointed out that renewable energy prices are falling precipitously and that Kenya has emerged as one of the lowest cost developers of geothermal power in the world.

"We understand the need for Kenya to increase electricity supply and access for its citizens. However, instead of financing projects that would produce profoundly negative environmental impacts, the bank should consider projects that tap into Kenya's tremendous renewable and low-cost resources," read the letter. 

"The plant will increase African indebtedness to China and potentially undermine African partners long-term economic health."

Read: Stop Lamu coal plant and lift ban on mangrove logging, state told

The Senators further argued that Kenya's ambitious emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement underscore its commitment to a clean energy future.

"The development of the Lamu coal plant would be counterproductive to Kenya's climate goals and would set back the progress in building a sustainable energy system.

"Kenya has emerged as an undisputed leader in clean and renewable energy in Africa, with the overwhelming majority of the country's electricity currently coming from renewable resources. In fact Kenya is home to Africa's largest geothermal and wind power plants and it will be home to the continents largest solar power plant."

The emissions from the plant, they Senators noted further, will have devastating effects on the health of the people due to air, water and soil pollution and this will be the case for decades.

Lamu residents have demonstrated several times against the establishment of the plant and asked the government to stop it.

In April, however, the government maintained that the project would go on.

Transport Minister James Macharia terming it a boost for the proposed Lamu Resort City.

“We are happy to say that groundbreaking should be expected in the next two months,” he said during the launch of the Lamu Port City Investment Framework at the KICC in Nairobi.

Work was to in June 2015 but strong headwinds have included land acquisition, obtaining licences and revolts from the local community as well as international environmental watchdogs

See:Lamu coal plant works to ‘start in two months’

Also Read:Blow to Omtatah as court dismisses Lamu coal case

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