Press Release

Polling finds citizens in six belt and road countries want clean energy, not coal

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In the first multi-country survey of public opinion towards foreign investment in energy in Belt and Road Initiative countries, E3G commissioned YouGov to poll citizens of Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam in April 2019.

The report is published ahead of China hosting the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on 25-27 April 2019.

The results of the polling highlight that government energy policies and foreign investment packages, which currently favour coal, are at odds with citizen preferences for clean energy.

  • In all six countries, citizens have a strong preference for clean energy rather than coal. When asked which type of energy they felt their country should invest in to best support its long-term development, the majority selected renewable energy sources, ranging from 61% in Pakistan to 89% in Vietnam.
  • Citizens feel that investing in solar power should be a high priority for the long-term development of their country, receiving the highest positive responses of all energy options in all six countries.  
  • There are sharp differences between citizens’ views of clean and dirty energy technologies. Coal is the energy technology that respondents felt should be the lowest priority, ranked even lower than nuclear in four of the six countries.
  • Citizens views towards foreign investment in coal see it as contributing to increased pollution and climate change. Coal was also more associated with corruption than are renewable energy investments. In contrast, the top response from citizens towards wind and solar is that these energy sources are viewed as being good for the economy in the long term.
  • In all six countries, a substantial majority of citizens polled responded that they would be Very Favourable towards foreign investment by governments, banks and companies when it is to support clean energy (ranging from 57% to 76% of responses).
  • In contrast, all countries saw only a minority of citizens respond that they would be Very Favourable towards foreign investment in fossil fuels (ranging from 13% to 32%). In Vietnam a majority of respondents (52%) viewed foreign investment in fossil fuels unfavourably.

Quote

Nick Mabey, Chief Executive of E3G said:

This polling provides clear evidence that the citizens of the Belt and Road Initiative countries prefer clean energy investment over coal. China should now work with governments, business and investors at the upcoming Belt and Road Forum to make sure these demands are met.

The upcoming Belt and Road Forum in Beijing provides an opportunity to signal an end for international support for coal investment. Citizens across the member countries know that coal will only continue to exacerbate air pollution, climate change and corruption issues.

The energy choices made now will have long-term impact on economic development and citizens' welfare. International investors, including actors under China's Belt and Road Initiative, should take note that citizens want clean energy not coal. Local people know that this is the best way to create jobs and support long-term growth. Donor countries must do more to support governments to leapfrog to the clean energy future their people are asking for.

Background

The six countries polled all feature in the top 10 locations for proposed coal power plant construction outside of China. [Note 5]

Financial support for new coal power generation around the globe is dominated by China, Japan and Korea. Analysis by NRDC found that these three countries had provided public financial support to coal power projects totalling 55GW of capacity in the period 2013-2018, amounting to 81% of capacity supported by overseas public finance during this period. NRDC estimate that China alone is likely to provide public finance to 42GW of proposed coal capacity, making it the world’s largest financier of coal power generation. [Note 6]

More broadly, IEEFA have estimated that of the 399 gigawatts (GW) of coal plants currently under development outside China, Chinese financial institutions and corporations have committed or offered funding for over one-quarter of them (102GW), across 23 countries. [Note 7]

Available for comment

E3G Associate Director Chris Littlecott is available for commentary on the results of the polling analysis (UK timezone) – please contact him directly.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

  1. E3G is an independent climate change think tank operating to accelerate the global transition to a low carbon economy. E3G specializes in climate diplomacy, climate risk, energy policy and climate finance.
  2. In 2018, E3G was ranked the fifth most influential environmental think tank in the world for the third year in a row, by the Go to Think Tank Index.
  3. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The surveys were carried out online. For each market, the figures have been weighted and are representative of the countries adults online (aged 18+)
  4. E3G’s summary report Clean Energy, not Coal: Citizens views of Foreign Investment provides full details of the polling results, and will be available online at www.e3g.org    
  5. The Global Coal Plant Tracker provides a comprehensive database of coal power plant projects at different stages of development, available at https://endcoal.org/global-coal-plant-tracker/summary-statistics/ 
  6. See NRDC, 2018, The Questionable Future of Overseas Coal Investments, available at https://www.nrdc.org/experts/han-chen/questionable-future-overseas-coal-investments and the Global Coal Finance Tracker at https://endcoal.org/finance-tracker/  
  7. See IEEFA, 2019, China at a Crossroads: Continued Support for Coal Power Erodes Country’s Clean Energy Leadership, available at http://ieefa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/China-at-a-Crossroads_January-2019.pdf This paper also includes helpful summaries of coal power projects under development in the six countries included in E3G’s polling analysis (among others).