Don't we deserve
Do Japanese people deserve to have governments and companies abide by their own rules and commitments?
To keep their homes and livelihoods?
To have air clean enough to breathe?
Of course they do.
Don’t we, the people of Matarbari, deserve the same?
This year, Japan’s international development agency JICA said,
“No, you don’t.”
That’s because JICA has broken Japan’s vow to cut off overseas coal financing.
The government agency is setting out to fund a new coal power plant called Matarbari 2 near a coastal area of Bangladesh, abandoning its own climate action commitment.
Even construction giant Sumitomo is abiding by its climate promise and has recently pulled out of Matarbari 2.
Worse, Matarbari 2 is part of an energy hub that has already displaced 20,000 people and is expected to spew enough toxic chemicals to cause 14,000 premature deaths.
That’s thanks to a faulty Environmental Impact Assessment during Phase 1 of the plant that did not take into account mercury and PM2.5 emissions.
Now, over 7 million people in the Chattogram, Matarbari region are likely to be exposed to excessive mercury and sulfur dioxide emissions.
As a result, thousands are expected to develop fatal health conditions, like heart disease, from the Matarbari coal project.
"The road to the power plant not only destroyed the river but also our livelihood, hopes, and future. Now I eke out a living from daily labor."
Japan is the only country in Asia actively considering funding new coal power plants overseas.
Matarbari 1 and 2 could not be constructed without Japanese funding and expertise. The projects, and their environmental, human and economic impacts, are “Made in Japan.”
The Matarbari coal plants were made possible by a JICA Official Development Assistance loan. The loan for Matarbari 2 will likely be finalized by May or June 2022.
Financing the new Matarbari violates what the agency promised in 2021: JICA said it would work with Bangladesh “to promote a low- or zero-carbon transformation” of its energy economy.
There are other broken promises.
The projects do not meet JICA’s own guidelines. JICA’s “Guidelines for Environmental and Social Considerations” requires that the project compensate locals appropriately and promptly for negative impacts, such as loss of livelihood or homes. But this requirement was ignored, delayed and left (so far) unmet, no matter how loudly locals protested.
If JICA decides to finance Matarbari 2, several other organizations will also break their own vows. A consortium of IHI-Toshiba is likely to help develop the project despite Toshiba saying it would stop taking orders for new coal plants in line with the global effort to reduce carbon emissions.
Japanese financial advisor SMBC and Japanese underwriter NEXI will also play key roles in the controversial project.
Japan is last in line when it comes to ending coal financing in the region. At a country level, funding Matarbari 2 breaks a momentous international commitment: Japan’s vow at the G7 summit last year to end overseas coal finance.
Even China ended funding for BRI coal plants last year, in line with Xi Jinping’s pledge to reach carbon neutrality by 2060, leaving Japan as the last coal-funding country in Asia.
To regain its status as a global climate leader, Japan must follow through on its pledges and immediately stop considering financing Matarbari 2.
Japan and JICA must follow through on their own promises and stop financing coal.
projected premature deaths over a 30-year period caused by the Matarbari plants
likely to be exposed to excessive mercury and sulfur dioxide emissions
5 and 6
wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests, respectively, likely to face serious consequences
sulfur dioxide emissions for Matarbari 1 per day. That is 100 times more than the WHO limit of 20 µg/m3.
Matarbari 2 is cheap and cost-effective.
The power generation cost at Matarbari 1 project is an alarming US$160/MWh. Even with the construction of Matarbari 2 project bringing down the cost, solar is still cheaper: in Bangladesh. The levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for solar PV is estimated at US$54/MWh.
Minister of Environment
“I want strong public-private cooperation so that we can demonstrate Japan’s unwavering resolve to decarbonize to the international community.”