Record cyclone hits Bay of Bengal: coal sponsored 
by China destroys natural safeguards

Press Release
Beijing | May 20th, 2020

China as a sponsor of coal amplifies environmental destruction in Bangladesh
Coal infrastructure destroys safeguards against cyclones like Amphan
NGOs call for focus on renewables in the Bangladesh-China economic corridor

On May 22nd, the National People’s Congress of China will hold its annual session. It is then that the new 14th five-year plan (2021-2025) for the further general development direction will be outlined for getting approved in 2021. This 14th FYP will have major implications on the future of climate change. Last year, premier Li Keqiang promised to collaborate with the EU on the Paris Agreement alignment of the nation’s policies. China is currently the world’s biggest CO2 emitter, but also the biggest developer of renewable technologies. So far, there have been no clear commitments to fight the climate crisis, specifically in a post-pandemic world.

China as a sponsor of environmental destruction in Bangladesh
26 projects are developed with Chinese utilities and engineering companies. Among them is the Payra-Hub in Bangladesh, a massive coal port constructed right next to the Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage mangrove forest. [1] Once operational, the hub and connected port will be used to import 20 million metric tons of coal each year. The hub will supply at least four power plants with imported coal from Indonesia. These plants are in different stages of development, but will have up to 9,820MW installed if finalized. Chinese engineering companies are involved in the construction of all of them and the power plants are all co-owned by the Chinese government.

Cyclone Amphan in the Bay of Bengal: Coal infrastructure accelerates the climate crisis, destroys natural safeguards against it
The Sundarbans mangrove forest has so far been acting as a natural barrier against the worst effects of tropical storms. It protects the region from severe floods and provides a habitat for numerous marine species, on which the local communities depend for their livelihoods. The construction of the Payra port and resulting traffic will destroy large parts of the neighbouring Sundarbans. This will contribute to the acceleration of the climate crisis through increased emissions, while taking away the natural safeguard against the worsened effects of natural disasters.

A study released on May 18th 2020 finds that tropical storms increase 8% in intensity every decade. [2] Cyclone Amphan, which is currently hitting the Bay of Bengal, is set to become the strongest storm on record in the area. [3] 5.3 million people could be exposed in Bangladesh, resulting in two million people to be moved from coastal areas to more than 12,000 cyclone shelters. [4]

Hasan Mehedi, Energy Campaigner for the Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt, says:

“Hopefully the Sundarbans will save the people of Khulna and Satkhira from the worst effects of this record storm. However, other areas like Payra, Matarbari and Bhola are totally exposed to the sea. 350,000 poor, seafaring fishermen will be the first victims of this disaster. The coastal embankments are very weak due to lack of maintenance. This is not only an issue of corruption, it is also about fixing the state's priority. The state needs to protect the Sundarbans the way the Sundarbans protect us, not sacrifice the forest for profit and industrialisation.”

Creating dependencies on fossils: China’s Coal in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is one of the Asian countries that are at the core of China’s outward investment in fossil fuels. Chinese banks have provided $52 billion in loans and underwriting for companies expanding coal power in Bangladesh in the last three years. This makes up 65% of the total global financing of $80 billion invested to expand Bangladesh’s coal infrastructure. [5]

Government urged to phase out destructive technologies
International civil society organizations are calling on the Chinese government to move away from unsustainable, destructive technologies and invest in environmentally friendly alternatives instead. The export of China’s development model, which until recently was heavily focused on fossil fuels and rapid development, will lock many countries into a high-carbon-development mode for decades to come.

The upcoming EU-China summits in Brussels and Leipzig will send a signal to the world about the seriousness of the joint commitment to a transition through recovery. While the EU’s Green Deal is in the making, the two EU-China summits will determine the development of 34% of global emissions, with China being responsible for 25.76% of global emissions and the EU for 7.8%. [6]

Dr. Nora Sausmikat, Head of Urgewald’s China Desk, says:

“The time to act is now. The Chinese government has to stop protecting state companies that are investing in unsustainable, harmful technologies. China’s export and development strategy is creating dangerous dependencies and causing vulnerable states like Bangladesh, an early member state of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), to get stuck in the carbon trap for decades to come.”

Hasan Mehedi, Energy Campaigner for the Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt, says:

“China is financing and constructing most of the Coal Power Plants of Bangladesh. As poor farmers are losing land and local environmental balance due to those power plants, people are blaming China. The country is also becoming the largest contributor to the carbon emissions of Bangladesh. Thus, China is drastically losing its public image in Bangladesh, which is one of the major barriers for people-to-people relationships.”


[1] Market Forces, Nov 2019, Choked by Coal, The Carbon Catastrophe in Bangladesh,
[2] CNN, May 2020, Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are becoming stronger, according to a new NOAA study,
[3] Times of India, May 2020, Climate change making cyclones stronger by 8% every decade: Study,
[4] CNN, May 2020, India and Bangladesh brace for the strongest storm ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal,
[5], December 2019, Banks and Investors Against Future: NGO Research Reveals Top Financiers of New Coal Power Development,
[6] World Resources Institute, Feb 2020, 4 Charts Explain Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Countries and Sectors,



Jacey Bingler | Communications Manager at Urgewald
+49 175 521 7571,

Dr. Nora Sausmikat | Head of Urgewald's China Desk

Hasan Mehedi | Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt


    Bild Anprechpartner   Dr. Nora Sausmikat

    Dr. Nora Sausmikat
    China Desk / Kampagnen zu multilateralen Finanzinstitutionen
    nora.sausmikat [at]

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