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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Reactions, as Japan halts aid for coal plants in Indonesia, Bangladesh

Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Secretary, Hikariko Ono, on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, announced the suspension of Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) for coal plants in Indonesia and Bangladesh.

Fossil fuel pollution
Fossil fuel pollution from a coal power station

The decision brings to a halt the Japanese financial support for Bangladesh’s Matarbari coal-fired power plant phase 2 and Indonesia’s Indramayu coal-fired power plant.

This is after increased international pressure on Japan to align with last year’s G7 decision to end all aid support for new unabated coal-fired power plants by the end of 2021. Prior to this announcement, Japan insisted that Matarbari and Indramayu were “ongoing cases” and exempt from the G7 agreement.

The development has been described as a win for the communities of Matarbari and Indramayu who have continuously opposed the developments and suffer the negative health and livelihood effects of both power plants.

It is also said to be an indicator of the importance of international pressure and unprecedented global cooperation to end new fossil fuel extraction and swiftly phase out existing projects.

“However, it is crucial to ensure both Matarbari and Indramayu coal plants are not replaced with false solutions, such as gas, which would still lock us into a global trajectory beyond 1.5 degrees of warming,” according to 350.org, an international environmental organisation addressing the climate crisis.

Shibayan Raha, 350.org South Asia Senior Organiser, says: “It is about time that Japan aligned with its pledge at G7 and ended financing climate-destroying fossil fuel projects overseas. This is welcome news as Bangladesh currently faces the worst floods in more than a century, floods that have been exacerbated by the climate crisis. But we must stay vigilant. Matarbari Phase 1 is still causing devastation to surrounding communities, and any transition of Matarbari Phase 2 from coal to gas would still be problematic for our climate and community health.”

Jeri Asmoro, 350.org Indonesia Campaigner: “While the decision is long overdue, this is good news for the climate and particularly for the impacted communities in Indramayu who fought consistently to stop the expansion of the coal plant. They have been experiencing severe impacts to their health and livelihoods since the project began. But the fight doesn’t end here. We will monitor this announcement and will make sure the coal-fired power plant isn’t simply replaced with false solutions like gas or any derivative from coal.”

Firdaus Cahyadi, 350.org Indonesia Team Leader: “We welcome the decision from Japan and insist on a complete end to the country’s funding of overseas fossil fuel projects. There is no room for coal, oil or gas in a safe future for Indonesia. We hope this announcement will create a snowball effect for similar projects and will end the era of dirty energy in Indonesia, and the rest of the world.”

In May last year, the IEA indicated that, to reach net-zero by 2050, there could be no new fossil fuel extraction. The most recent IPCC report also revealed that the lifetime cumulative CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure would already exceed the carbon budget to keep the 1.5 degrees with a 50% probability. Therefore, not only is new fossil fuel development unnecessary, but existing infrastructures must also be retired earlier than their intended lifespan.

Last month, G7 energy and environment ministers gathered and pledged to end public funding for new fossil fuel projects overseas, but Japan continues to pursue new upstream developments abroad. All eyes will be on Japan for next week’s G7 leader’s summit, and whether they will step up climate measures and finally end fossil fuel financing.

Eri Watanabe, 350.org Senior Japan Finance Campaigner: “Yesterday’s announcement by the government is a late move, but it shows that continued pressure from affected communities and the global climate movement forced Japan to keep its word. However, climate activists are watching Japan closely, to ensure it won’t propose false solutions and will support a genuine just transition for communities.

“Japan’s current reliance on CCUS and ammonia/hydrogen co-firing technologies is worrisome, as those unproven technologies can prolong the lifespan of existing coal plants without reliable reductions. Japan must ensure remedies for damages already suffered by the affected communities in Bangladesh and Indonesia. It must also support a just transition through renewable energy and energy efficiency as the most promising solutions to stay below 1.5 degrees.” 

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