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Japanese trading houses and the coal exit: Comments on Marubeni coal policy update

On October 4, 2019, Marubeni Corporation released a “Notification Regarding Business Policies & Progress Pertaining to Sustainability ” (Update to Coal-Fired Power Generation Business and Renewable Energy Generation Business). Just two weeks earlier, FoE Japan, JACSES, Kiko Network and 12 international civil groups and NGOs had submitted a joint letter to Marubeni’s President and CEO Masumi Kakinoki, entitled “Marubeni should Strengthen Current Coal Policy by Cancelling All Coal Projects under Construction and Planning Stage, and Disclose Related Information.” Our letter was dated September 18, 2019, exactly one year after the company released its original “Notification Regarding Business Policies Pertaining to Sustainability .” Because of the timing, we believe the new announcement was partially a response to our letter.

In its latest announcement, Marubeni states that it has pulled out of the Morupule B project in Botswana (2 units of 150 MW each) and sold off two projects in Asia (details are not stated, but the total net generation is stated as 69 MW). We welcome Marubeni’s exit from these three projects and encourage the company to withdraw from more coal projects as quickly as possible, including all that are currently at the planning or construction stage.

We note that other major Japanese trading houses are also starting to pull out of coal. In February 2019, Itochu Corporation announced its policy not to develop any new coal-fired power plants and new coal mining. In August, Sumitomo Corporation Group revealed a policy in its “Integrated Report 2019 ” not to develop any new coal-fired power plants or coal mining projects. We urge these trading houses to quickly withdraw from coal-related projects, including any that are currently under construction, and to publicly provide regular progress updates. We also urge Mitsubishi Corporation, which is still active in coal-fired power generation, to declare and implement a coal exit policy.

Here are examples new coal-fired power plant projects in Southeast Asia, currently at the planning or construction phase by Japanese trading companies.

  • Marubeni: Cirebon 2 in Indonesia (1,000 MW), Nghi Son2 in Vietnam (1,200 MW)
  • Itochu: Batang in Indonesia (2,000 MW)
  • Sumitomo: Tanjung Jati B Expansion in Indonesia (2,000 MW), Van Phong 1 in Vietnam (1,320 MW)
  • Mitsubishi: Vung Ang 2 (1,200 MW) and Vinh Tan 3 (1,200 MW) in Vietnam

To avoid locking these developing countries into high future CO2 emissions from new coal-fired power plants, and to reduce the risk of creating “stranded assets” with these power plants, Japanese companies should pull out of all new coal projects and reconsider then cancel any projects that are at the planning or construction stage. It is essential to divest from coal projects in an effort to address climate change.

We will continue calling upon Marubeni to take action on our previous letters, and upon all Japanese companies to show leadership in efforts to address climate change.

Here again are the three requests stated in our joint letter to Marubeni in September 2019.

1. Take practical approaches to be inconsistent with the Paris Agreement.
2. Apply Marubeni’s policies and cancel coal-fired power plant projects that are currently under planning or construction. Specifically, we request Marubeni to promptly and completely withdraw from the following coal-fired power plant projects and announce it officially:

  • Cirebon 2 (Indonesia) (1,000 MW)
  • Thabametsi (South Africa) (630 MW)
  • Nghi Son 2 (Vietnam) (1,200 MW)
  • Akita Port (tentative name, Japan) (1,300 MW)

3. Disclose information on the status of the coal projects listed above and progress toward halving Marubeni’s coal-fired power net generation capacity of approximately 3 gigawatts (GW).