Environmental groups like 350, Friends of the Earth U.S., GroundWork/Friends of the Earth South Africa and the Sierra Club are banding together to protest against a proposal for the U.S. government to finance the construction of a massive coal plant in South Africa.

Supporters gathered on January 7th in front of the United States Export Import Bank to demand they vote NO on financing the 4,800 MW Kusile coal plant, to be built by South Africa’s state-owned Eskom utility. In 2010, the World Bank voted to give Eskom a loan of more than $3 billion to build yet another massive coal plant, the 4,800 MW Medupi plant.

The United States Export Import Bank (Ex-Im) is the official export credit agency of the United States.  Ex-Im Bank provides financial support to U.S. companies that want to do business abroad, often by providing loans, loan guarantees, and different types of insurance. The bank claims that green finance is a priority, touting a $2 million solar deal in India as its “Green Transaction of the Year.” But that’s peanuts compared to the $917 million in financing Ex-Im already provided in 2010 for the nearly 4000 MW Sasan coal plant in India.

The Kusile plant is widely opposed in South Africa for environmental, public health, and development reasons. Kusile would be an environmental disaster. At nearly 5,000 megawatts of output, the proposed Kusile coal plant would be one of the largest power plants of its kind in the world — and one of the largest industrial point sources of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Environmental Impact Statement that Eskom provided to Ex-Im, carbon dioxide equivalent emissions for this single project — 36.8 million tons — would increase South African energy sector emissions by 12.8 percent and the country’s total contribution to climate change by 9.7 percent. The Kusile coal plant would require more than 17 metric tons of coal a year, leading to an increase in the number of environmentally damaging coal mines and further degradation of the local water supply.

This coal plant would also create a variety of health issues for local communities. The plant would emit sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide at a rate that exceeds South African safety standards, polluting the air and leading to respiratory problems such as asthma and cardiovascular diseases such as emphysema. The plant would require approximately 1,000 hectares of land to accommodate its toxic coal ash dump, which would be situated above ground, and which would emit heavy metals and toxins like arsenic. Yet for all the hazards and environmental damage the plant would cause, less than 50 percent of the profits would stay in South Africa.

350 is working with our allies to pressure Ex-Im Bank board members to vote no on this devastating project. Instead of locking South Africa into dependence on dirty energy, we should be using taxpayer dollars to help countries in the developing world transition to clean, renewable energy sources.

To learn more about Kusile, check out http://www.foe.org/stop-kusile-coal-plant