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Greta Thunberg joins Asian charge against Vietnam coal plant

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Mitsubishi Corp. and megabanks explain that Vung Ang 2 will boost livelihoods

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg has lent her support to young climate protesters in Japan, South Korea and Vietnam to oppose the Vung Ang 2 coal-fired power plant project in Vietnam.

“Don’t be silent,” she said in a video message to Asian student protesters who have been making the case that the addition of a coal plant that emits greenhouse gases will have catastrophic consequences for future generations.

In Japan, a group of nine people led by Keio University student Momoko Nojo, including high school and university students as well as an entrepreneur, sent an open letter at year-end to companies backing the project.

“Prime Minister [Yoshihide] Suga has called for a net-zero society by 2050. In light of developments such as these, do you intend to cancel these plans?” the letter asks project leader Mitsubishi Corp. and such banks as the state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation. Suga announced the greenhouse gas target last October.

“If not, how is the Vung Ang 2 project consistent with the Paris Agreement, to which Japan and Vietnam are signatories, and the goal to limit global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius?” they ask.

Other project participants include Chugoku Electric Power and Japan’s three biggest banks: Mizuho Financial Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group.

“Hi, my name is Greta Thunberg, and I am a climate and environmental activist from Sweden. And I want to send my full support to the No Coal for Our Future campaign, which aim is to stop the funding for the Vung Ang 2 power plants,” Thunberg said in a video tweeted out by the Japanese arm of the Fridays for Future climate strike movement she founded.

“You are so brave and please keep it up. You have my full support, and our full support from here. And we send you the best of luck, and please never stop,” said the 18-year-old activist, who made global headlines in September 2019 with a blistering speech at the United Nations, where she criticized world leaders for their inaction.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. … We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” she said back then.

All companies that received the open letter had responded by the Jan. 14 deadline.

“There are daily power shortages in the capital Hanoi, even this January,” Mitsubishi Corp. wrote in its response. “We have been strongly requested by the Vietnamese government to construct this plant,” the trading house said, explaining that it will pursue low carbon through ammonia-mixed combustion.

Mitsubishi also promised not to be engaged in any new coal-fired power plants in the future.

JBIC noted that the project has been endorsed by Japanese and Vietnamese leaders and contributes to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals by reducing areas with no electricity.

Taking part from South Korea are the Export-Import Bank of Korea, which is part of the $1.8 billion in syndicated financing, as well as Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction.

For the cash-strapped Vietnamese government, a coal-fired plant would cost less to build than a nuclear or liquified natural gas facility.

By Hidefumi Fujimoto – Nikkei Asia – February 1st, 2021

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