Climate activists oppose Japanese-funded coal power plant in Bangladesh

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Youth activists say coal-fired power plant will undermine global climate goals and harm local communities – and goes against Japan’s pledge to end overseas coal funding

(Adds JICA comment, updates Sumitomo’s answer)

By Roli Srivastava

MUMBAI, Jan 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Japan should stop funding the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Bangladesh because the emissions it produces will accelerate global warming and expose the low-lying country to greater risk of climate change impacts, youth activists said on Friday.

Japanese trading house Sumitomo Corp, along with Toshiba and IHI Corporation, is building the Matarbari power plant in Maheshkhali near the southeastern coastal town of Cox’s Bazar, funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Climate activists said the plan contradicts Japan’s pledge, made with other wealthy G7 nations last May, to end ‘relentless’ overseas coal-fired power funding. by the end of 2021.

Coal is considered unchanged when it is burned to produce electricity or heat without using technology to capture the resulting emissions, a system that is not yet widely used in electricity generation.

The power station being built in Cox’s Bazar, along the world’s longest beach, is endangering the lives and livelihoods of residents and will worsen wider climate problems, campaigners have said.

Bangladeshi officials have said that all possible measures are being taken to reduce the negative consequences of the fossil fuel power plant.

Kentaro Yamamoto, an activist with the Fridays for Future Japan student movement, said international support for such energy infrastructure was offered to Asian countries as “development aid” but was “destroying the environment”.

Launching a campaign to demand that Sumitomo and JICA stop working on the project, environmental activists and scientists in the region say Japan should stop investing in dirty energy to limit global warming climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with internationally agreed climate goals.

“This project is harming the people of Bangladesh and this planet. Around 20,000 people have lost land, homes and jobs, the floods will get worse and around 14,000 people could lose their lives due to toxic waste,” Yamamoto said during an online event.

The Bangladesh power station is at odds with global efforts to curb climate change and Sumitomo’s pledge to become carbon neutral by 2050, campaigners have said.

“Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 doesn’t mean burning coal until the last minute. It’s far too late to build new coal plants now,” said Roger Smith, Japan project manager at Mighty Earth, an advocacy organization.

A spokesperson for Sumitomo, which started building Matarbari in 2017, said the plant would be operated by the Bangladeshi government and was not at odds with Sumitomo’s net zero goal, as the Japanese company will end to all coal-fired generation activities by the end of the 2040s.

GROWING ENERGY NEEDS

About 8% of Bangladesh’s electricity supply comes from coal.

Last year it canceled 10 of the 18 coal-fired power stations it had planned to set up, amid rising costs for dirty fuel and growing calls from activists for more electricity supplies from renewable energy sources.

Mohammad Hossain, head of Power Cell, a technical arm of Bangladesh’s energy ministry, said the government had not received a petition from climate activists to stop the Matarbari project.

“We have canceled power plants before with the intention of reducing emissions, but it is an ongoing project and there is no question of canceling it,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The state-run plant – which is expected to be operational by 2024 – would use new technologies to limit emissions, minimize water consumption and reduce fly ash to avoid environmental damage, he added. .

“Our country is growing rapidly – its energy demand is increasing. This project was undertaken with the requirements of 2030 in mind,” Hossain said.

Campaigners said funding the use of fossil fuels put economic concerns ahead of people’s safety in a country whose low altitude, high population density and poor infrastructure make it highly vulnerable to climate change.

“We have the ability to switch to renewables and (we) need Japan’s support to make this transition but not for a coal-fired power plant that targets their profit,” said Farzana Faruk Jhumu of the Bangladesh branch of Fridays for Future. . .

JICA said that as a government agency, it follows national policy and aims to promote international cooperation.

This story was updated on February 1, 2022 with additional comments from JICA and Sumitomo.

Read more:

Bangladesh seeks to reduce future coal use as costs rise

As climate talks near, pressure grows on Asia to cancel new coal projects

Japan pledges $10 billion in financial support for Asia’s energy transition

(Reporting by Roli Srivastava @Rolionaroll; Editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world struggling to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news .trust.org)

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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