Consumers Push Back on Japanese Travel Company Driving Forest Destruction


Thousands of concerned travelers around the world have signed on to a threatened boycott of Japanese travel giant H.I.S. International, according to a new briefing paper from environmental campaign organization Mighty Earth. The paper highlights consumer outcry around the unexpected but clear link between Japan's second largest travel company and environmental destruction in Southeast Asia that threatens climate-vital rainforests and destroys the habitats of endangered orangutans. These latest consumer actions contribute to a rising tide of activism focusing on H.I.S., which has come under intense scrutiny for its foray into climate-polluting energy production.

The analysis, Think Twice About Traveling with Forest Destroyer H.I.S., highlights the recent campaign and relays the company’s efforts to expand its business portfolio into energy generation, and specifically identifies its under-construction power plant – a palm oil-burning facility in Kakuda City, Miyagi Prefecture – as a potential driver of ecological devastation.

“The palm oil industry drives about 250,000 acres of deforestation every year. Unchecked expansion of palm oil plantations destroys precious rainforests, threatens the survival of endangered orangutans, and exacerbates climate change,” said Rose Garr, Vice President at Mighty Earth. “H.I.S.’s power plant would require importing 70,000 more tons of palm oil each year, accelerating these trends. Even if that palm oil is subject to sourcing standards, there is an extremely limited supply of truly sustainable palm oil. The idea that we should burn it as fuel is just incredibly wasteful, and that’s why we’ve seen a global public outcry.”

H.I.S. is an international travel company that brings tourists to Japan to visit its quirky and offbeat destinations, including hotels staffed by robots and a theme park in Nagasaki that recreates old Holland. But in 2017, H.I.S. embarked on a new venture and established H.I.S. Super Power to sell discounted electricity to customers in Japan. Not content to be just an electricity middleman, H.I.S. Super Power began to build their own generation plants, putting up solar panels at their Dutch theme park but also investing in this large-scale power plant that would burn enormous quantities of palm oil.

Japanese environmental groups alerted H.I.S. to their concerns with the project and even met with the company’s CEO in February 2019. In July 2019, approximately 200,000 consumers from around the globe demanded H.I.S. protect forests by scrapping this proposed plant and getting out of the palm oil business. But H.I.S. management refused to accept the petitions and pushed forward with construction of the power plant.

H.I.S.’s lack of response prompted another round of international campaigning. The international coalition of NGOs delivered a letter to major H.I.S. branch offices in the United States, Europe, and Australia, reiterating its concerns about the power plant project. They sent a similar letter to H.I.S.’s major investors. Digital ads across multiple platforms are also being rolled out this week. The recent campaigning has led to an additional 7,200 people, including many frequent travelers, to pledge not to travel with H.I.S. or stay in its hotels until the company ends its involvement in palm oil power generation. H.I.S. has so far remained silent in the face of consumer protests, and after COVID 19-related delays, the power plant could begin operation in the coming weeks.

"As we hopefully put the worst of the pandemic behind us, there's going to be a huge pent-up desire to travel,” said Garr. “If the Olympics take place next year, international travelers will be flocking to Japan. But Americans, Australians, and Europeans don't want to travel or stay with a company driving destruction of the rainforests.”

“We understand H.I.S.’s desire to diversify into energy due to risks exemplified by the current pandemic and as Japanese domestic travel declines. However, their palm oil venture is shortsighted and risks generating a consumer backlash that threatens their core business. H.I.S. still has a chance to do the right thing: drop its plans to burn palm oil and instead invest in solar or the burgeoning Japanese wind power market.”

Global Call to End Coal Marks First Climate Test for New Japanese Administration

Dhaka · Tokyo · Washington D.C. – In a first climate test for the new Suga Administration in Japan, a major coalition of civil society organizations is holding a global call to stop Japanese coal finance in Bangladesh. The events will oppose Japanese involvement in new coal-fired power plants proposed to be built in Matarbari, Bangladesh and urge their replacement with renewable energy.

These power plants, as well as a coal terminal, would spread pollution over the long stretches of sandy beaches of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh’s premier tourist destination, a nearby marine reserve and wildlife sanctuaries. An estimated 100,000 fishermen also rely on this area for their livelihoods.

The Global Call includes:

  • Activists forming a human chain at-risk Kohelia River in Matarbari;
  • An online rally featuring hundreds of people co-organised by 14 organisations across the world, coming together to call for Japan to end coal finance in Bangladesh
  • A billboard truck circling downtown Washington D.C. to target the Japanese Embassy, Sumitomo Corporation of the Americas, and JICA USA, calling out Sumitomo Corporation and the Japanese government for their involvement in the Matarbari coal plant project.
  • Environmental NGOs protesting against Sumitomo Corporation and JICA with a digital photo action in Tokyo

Images are available here.

Sharif Jamil, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) General Secretary said, “Japan is one of the most important development partners of Bangladesh. However, the coal based power plants under construction in Matarbari in the name of development reflects environmental racism towards our nation.”

“They are destroying the entire Kohelia River, evicting people and their livelihoods in those areas and going to emit pollutants to the air at a much higher level than the standard permissible for new coal power projects in Japan. We demand Japan to stop destroying our ecology and public health. Japan should cancel the coal plants and help Bangladesh towards sustainable growth.”

Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation is currently constructing one 1200MW coal plant at Matarbari with funding from the Japanese government through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Despite international pledges to end coal finance, just this summer the Japanese government moved forward with a planning process to build yet another 1200MW plant at the Matarbari site.

Yuki Tanabe, Program Director for Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES), said, “In July 2020, the Government of Japan revised its coal financing policy, which states that ‘in principle, the government will not provide official financial support.’ However, projects that are already in the pipeline, including Matarbari 2, fall within the exceptions. Matarbari 2 is just in the beginning stages of project preparation, which is definitely still reversible.”

A study released on Tuesday this week by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air assessed the cumulative impacts from these projects. Alarmingly, air pollution from Matarbari 1 and 2 coal plants would exacerbate the region’s poor air quality, resulting in increased illness and the premature deaths of 6,700 people. No pollution controls for mercury would result in widespread contamination of local farmland and waters by the toxic element.

Conversely, according to a recent University of Berkeley-led study there is potential for up to 53 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity  in  Bangladesh,  which  could  replace  planned  coal  power  projects  as  a  lower  cost  alternative  for  electricity generation.

"Japan's new administration must ensure a safe future for Bangladeshis instead of financing dirty energy projects. Every day, Bangladeshis are bearing the brunt of climate change impacts. This year alone, we saw record breaking cyclones and storm surges and floods that inundated one third of our country. If Japan is serious about their commitment to Bangladesh's sustainable development, they must proactively promote renewable energy." said Hasan Mehedi, Member Secretary, Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED).

“Mighty Earth is proud to take part in this global event to support the people of Bangladesh. The planned Matarbari Phase 2 coal plant would further burden Bangladeshis with air pollution, pollute fish and farmland with mercury pollution, and place them at further risk from climate change impacts. Sumitomo Corporation claims to be going carbon neutral, yet still builds new coal plants, making its policy meaningless. We’re calling on Sumitomo to announce it will not take part in the Matarbari 2 coal plant,” said Roger Smith, Japan Project Manager for Mighty Earth.

Project to Build Japan's Largest Palm Oil Burning Power Plant Defeated

Environmental groups call on government to reform renewable energy incentives and for H.I.S. to abandon plans to build a similar plant

KYOTO, JAPAN – Environmental groups are celebrating today’s dissolution of Maizuru Green Initiatives GK, a company set up to build a palm oil burning power plant in Maizuru City, Japan. The controversial large-scale 66-megawatt biomass power plant was the subject of a 9 months-long campaign by local residents with support from Japanese and international environmental groups.

“This is a great victory for tropical forests and the residents of Maizuru. We are now calling on travel company H.I.S. in Miyagi and Sankei Energy in Kyoto to end their involvement with palm oil power plants, and for the Japanese government to stop subsidizing biomass power that worsens climate change,” said Yuichiro Ishizaki of HUTAN Group.

The Maizuru power plant sparked controversy for its use of palm oil as its primary fuel source. Malaysia and Indonesia are the primary producers of palm oil for Japan. Native tropical forests, including habitat for endangered orangutans, are being lost, with 3.5 million hectares of tropical rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia converted into oil palm plantations over the last 20 years. Japan imports approximately 750,000 tons of palm oil per year, mainly for use in foods and products. If the Maizuru palm oil power plant were constructed, it would significantly add to this burden, burning an additional 120,000 tons per year.

Pressure from residents, including a petition with 11,000 signatures, prompted the project sponsor, AMP Energy of Toronto, Canada to withdraw from the project in April 2020. In a letter sent on Earth Day (April 22), Executive Chairman Paul Ezekiel stated: “Going forward, our company and our group will not consider power generation business that uses palm oil as its fuel.” Ezekiel was also quoted citing project difficulties which included “strong opposition from local residents.”

AMP’s withdrawal left a question as to whether the plant constructor and operator, Hitachi Zosen, would look for a new sponsor. At its annual shareholder meeting on June 23, 2020, Takashi Morimoto from the Maizuru residents group raised concerns and questioned Hitachi Zosen Managing Director Toshiyuki Shiraki about their plans for this plant. Shiraki responded that Hitachi Zosen would withdraw from this project. When asked for an explanation by a reporter, Shiraki stated: “It is because we have no prospect of investing in palm oil in the future.” Maizuru City followed suit, with the mayor announcing on June 26 that the city would no longer pursue the power plant project.

“It was all hands on deck for what we expected to be a years-long fight against this plant. It is amazing that we were able to see its cancelation in just nine months. I believe we were able to achieve victory due to a combination of local grassroots activities and advice from experienced NGOs. The world is full of problems, but I believe people in other regions can also change society for the better,” offered Takashi Morimoto of the Environmental Group of Maizuru West District.

Maizuru Plant Part of Larger Trend

In Japan, government incentives have spurred the use of palm oil for power generation. In 2012, Japan began incentives to support renewable energy (through the “feed-in-tariff” or FiT) where the government guarantees utilities will purchase electricity generated from renewable energy at a fixed price. Until recently, the feed-in-tariff system had the highest incentive in the world for biomass power (primarily wood pellets, palm kernel shells and palm oil) of 24 yen/KWh.

The more palm oil is burned for biomass power generation, the more global demand for palm oil will increase. As of March 2018, the total capacity of the palm oil power plant projects approved under the Japan’s FiT system was 1700 MW. If all were to be built, 3.4 million tons of palm oil would be burned each year -- nearly five times more than Japan’s current palm oil imports. This surge in demand threatens to have a huge environmental impact.

Japanese environmental advocates are battling a second large palm oil power plant under construction in Kakuda City, Miyagi Prefecture, and to date have collected 200,000 signatures against it. This plant is being built by H.I.S. Super Power, an affiliate of Japanese travel giant H.I.S.

“As a travel company, H.I.S. runs ecotours to places like Borneo, promoting a chance to experience the wonder of the natural world. How can they explain to these customers why they are also involved in a business which will burn large amounts of forest-destroying palm oil to make electricity? We are calling upon H.I.S. to follow Hitachi Zosen’s lead and renounce their involvement in palm oil power plants,” stated Kanna Mitsuta of Friends of the Earth, Japan.

Subsidizing Climate Change Biomass Worsens Climate Change

Unfortunately, Japanese government policy failed to put safeguards in place to avoid fuel sources linked to deforestation and with significant greenhouse gas emissions. A 2019 analysis done for Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) showed that palm oil had similar emissions to natural gas over its lifecycle (including cultivation, processing, transportation). However, when tropical forests are cleared, emissions increase five times; when peatlands are developed, emissions increase a staggering 139 times.

In addition to burning palm oil, Japan’s biomass policies also incentivize cutting down forests and burning wood, a practice that hinders our progress against climate change, as new trees regrow and reabsorb carbon slowly. Most wood burned in Japan is shipped from Vietnam or North America.

Maizuru Plant Attracted International Opposition

The Maizuru palm oil power plant attracted international attention, with environmental groups alarmed at Japan’s surge of biomass power plants. In a joint letter to 44 domestic and international financial institutions, 25 groups from 8 countries opposed this project, and palm oil power in general.

“The clock is ticking in our fight against global climate change – with only a few years to act, we cannot afford to waste time on false climate solutions,” said Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director Deborah Lapidus. “Burning palm oil accelerates the destruction of the forests we need to absorb carbon. Burning wood biomass literally sends years’ worth of carbon sequestration up in smoke. Halting the Maizuru plant is an important step in ending the false promise of biomass and will help put the focus on truly renewable power solutions.”

Urgent Need to Reform Japan’s Renewable Energy Incentive Program

In April 2020, after calls for reform, METI required greenhouse gas assessment for new biomass fuel types under the feed-in-tariff. Advocates are urging METI to also place strict greenhouse gas emissions limits on existing fuels including palm oil, wood pellets and palm kernel shells.

“Japan’s renewable energy incentives should not subsidize fuels that worsen climate change,” stated Sayoko Iinuma of Global Environmental Forum. “Due to its high greenhouse gas emissions, palm oil should be excluded from the feed-in-tariff, and METI needs to adopt strict emissions limits for wood biomass as well.”

Campaign website (Japanese/limited English):

Sumitomo Doubles Down on Coal, Releases More Rhetoric on Sustainability

Japanese conglomerate plans to continue work on disastrous coal plant project in Bangladesh despite climate, public health, budgetary, and environmental concerns

WASHINGTON, DC and TOKYO – Environmental organizations are criticizing Sumitomo Corporation, a Japanese conglomerate, after it failed to announce any new concrete actions to address climate change or end its investments in fossil fuels. Sumitomo issued a revised climate policy (Eng. translation) just before its June 19, 2020 shareholders meeting, committing the company to “carbon neutrality” by 2050. However, Sumitomo signaled no intent to abandon its involvement in coal, including the construction of the much-maligned Matarbari Coal Plant project. Mighty Earth had called upon Sumitomo to announce a concrete coal-phase out plan by its 2020 shareholder meeting and immediately end its involvement in new coal plants.

With revenues heavily impacted by COVID-19, Sumitomo Corporation announced to investors in May that it would “execute drastic structural reforms for each of our businesses and the Sumitomo Corporation Group as a whole, including the review of our strategies on portfolio management for increasing corporate value and the enhancement of sustainability management.” The revised sustainability and climate policies (Japanese) were long on rhetoric but short on action.

“On climate change, Sumitomo continues to resist making actual change,” said Roger Smith, Japan Project Manager for Mighty Earth. “Despite crashing coal prices, low energy demand, and an international movement towards ‘green recoveries,’ Sumitomo is doubling down on fossil fuels. Sumitomo needs to exit coal and end their involvement in coal plants, including Matarbari in Bangladesh where they lead the construction.”

“Sumitomo released a climate policy in August 2019 that has been proven to be largely meaningless,” said Smith. “The policy has loopholes that allow Sumitomo to continue building new coal plants it deems ‘essential,’ including dirty projects that should be abandoned, like the Van Phong I coal plant in Vietnam. Their policy doesn’t even cover building coal plants for other companies, like the Matarbari coal plants in Bangladesh.”

This week Sumitomo amended their climate policy to include a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, which would cover its energy businesses, but left in loopholes allowing them to continue to develop coal. The actions Sumitomo takes now will determine whether or not they can reduce their emissions in time.

“Sumitomo set a date to reduce emissions that is 30 years in the future without interim goals or even a timeline to develop a plan. This is too little, too late,” said Smith. “Sumitomo needs to amend their policy to completely shut the door on new coal and phase out existing coal plants globally by 2040 to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

"Bangladeshi people have as much right to clean energy and clean air as people in Japan, but Sumitomo Corporation’s climate policy loophole risks locking in decades more polluting coal power," stated Munira Chowdhury, Bangladeshi citizen and Analyst for Market Forces (an affiliate project of Friends of the Earth Australia).

"Pollution from the Matarbari Coal Plant (Phase 1) is estimated to cause up to 18,000 premature deaths during its operational years," said Hasan Mehedi, Member Secretary, Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED). "Bangladesh’s air quality has already been ranked among the worst in the world. I think Japanese citizens would be outraged to know their tax money will end up hurting and even killing people in Bangladesh."

Environmental organizations with the international No Coal Japan coalition published a “10 Reasons Why Sumitomo’s Matarbari Coal Plant is a Terrible Idea” about the over-budget, behind schedule Matarbari project in advance of Sumitomo’s AGM, with heavy promotion on social media.

“Everyone knows the Matarbari Coal Plant is an overbudget, shortsighted boondoggle,” said Smith. “For Sumitomo to double down and be involved in building a second Matarbari Coal Plant is baffling.”

"There is already enough electricity, and renewable energy is cheaper than coal in Bangladesh,” said Yuki Tanabe, a program director for Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES). “The Government of Japan should not provide aid support for the climate-destroying Matarbari phase 2 project, and Sumitomo should not participate in any additional construction."

Sumitomo had previously told investors that the company would “continue to closely monitor international efforts and changes in the business environment, and will revise the [climate] policy as appropriate,” leading to speculation that the company would announce concrete new actions in 2020.

“We are disappointed Sumitomo has failed to show greater leadership on climate change. The COVID-19 crisis provided a perfect opportunity to dump unprofitable coal businesses and pivot to clean energy. It’s time for Sumitomo’s investors to ask when company leadership will issue their roadmap to exit coal,” concluded Smith.

Ten Reasons Why Sumitomo's Matarbari Coal Plant is a Terrible Idea

A climate disaster in the form of an over-budget, behind-schedule boondoggle

Bangladesh, already at the mercy of climate change’s rising sea levels and increasingly severe tropical cyclones, has turned to Japan for help building its energy infrastructure. But despite Bangladesh’s commitment to using 100 percent renewable energy, the Japanese government and Sumitomo Corporation are proceeding with the construction of a new coal power plant in Matarbari, next to Bangladesh’s major coastal tourist area. Unbelievably, Japan’s government is considering whether to finance yet another coal plant in Matarbari.

The first Matarbari coal plant is a disaster – it is expensive, a bad investment, and an embarrassment to Sumitomo and Japan. Here are ten reasons why a second plant should never see the light of day.

The Matarbari coal project is:

1. A mismanaged money pit
The project was already 30% over budget and at least a year behind schedule before the global pandemic hit.1 In a desperate bid to defray the project’s high costs, Japan is considering doubling-down on a bad investment and building an additional coal plant in Matarbari.2 Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is expected to decide whether to proceed with an additional plant this summer.

2. Destroying the value of the “Made in Japan” label
For decades, “Made in Japan” has long meant precision craftsmanship at reasonable prices, but that is not what Sumitomo Corporation is planning for Bangladesh. The Matarbari coal plant units 1 & 2 will use unnecessarily polluting technology that would never be allowed in Japan, polluting up to 21 times the amount of SO2 and 10 times the amount of deadly particles than an average new coal plant in Japan.3 Why is Japan dumping dirty technologies in developing countries?


Matarbari Van Phong I Japan (median emissions 25 units post 2012)
820 mg/Nm3 for SO2 360 SO2 38mg/Nm3 SO2
460 mg/Nm3 for NOx 300 NOx 54 mg/Nm3 NOx
50 mg/Nm3 for particulate matter 47 mg/Nm3 for particulate matter 5mg/Nm3 for particulate matter


3. Bad for health
The excessive pollution from the Matarbari coal plant units 1 & 2 would put nearby communities significantly over WHO health guidelines for concentrations of air pollution. Air pollution contributes to respiratory diseases and even premature death.4 The construction of additional coal plants would further pollute the air and water.

4. A dirty debt trap
The Matarbari coal plant units 1 & 2 resulted from a non-competitive bidding process, a sweetheart deal that includes up-front financing from the Japanese government and construction carried out by Sumitomo Corporation, a Japanese company.5 Japan’s assistance comes at a price -- local media reported the cost of electricity from this plant is anticipated to be excessively high due to the construction delays, cost overruns and related coal infrastructure needed. If Japan doubles down on this project to try to defray costs, it would lock Bangladeshis into a high debt, high carbon and high pollution future.

5. More expensive than renewable energy alternatives
Japan could use its technological knowhow to help Bangladesh transition to a clean, renewable energy future. Energy analysts found that solar power would not only be cleaner, but also a far cheaper approach than coal for Bangladesh, with the levelized electricity cost of solar PV estimated at $91/MWh (USD) compared to an average coal cost of $110/MWh,6 and the Matarbari Units 1 & 2 reported to produce electricity at a staggering $135/MWh (or 13.5 cents/KWh).7 Bangladeshi ratepayers should not be saddled with high energy costs when their country has an abundance of solar potential.

6. A source of new climate changing emissions in a nation vulnerable to climate impacts
Matarbari Units 1 & 2 are under construction, with the Japanese government considering financing two more coal units. This is ironic, as Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially sea level rise and flooding, and has joined countries in similar circumstances as part of the Climate Vulnerable Forum.

7. Bad for workers
Bangladeshi news sources have reported that construction workers for Matarbari Units 1 & 2 went on strike after being forced to work during a national lockdown for COVID-19.8 Sumitomo Corporation should ensure that its partners and contractors respect workers’ rights and health, especially during a global pandemic. This double-standard is especially hypocritical as Sumitomo Corporation’s 4000 Japanese employees were directed to work from home starting on March 1,9 well before a state of emergency was declared for the Tokyo region on April 7, 2020. Sadly, this behavior is unsurprising, as Sumitomo has weaker protections for human rights than its Japanese trading company peers10 and only established a basic human rights policy this May.11

8. Against Japan’s climate commitments
Japan’s participation in the Paris Agreement led the Cabinet to adopt a policy in 2019 to develop infrastructure which helps contribute to global reductions of CO2 emissions. It is inconsistent for the Japanese government and Japanese companies like Sumitomo continue to build coal plants abroad. Furthermore, as Bangladesh has affordable clean energy alternatives, the proposed Matarbari coal plant does not meet the test laid out in Japan’s Fifth Strategic Energy Plan (2018) that new coal would be considered: “only for countries that have no choice but to select coal as a key source of energy from the viewpoints of energy security and economic efficiency.”12

9. Bad for local residents
Densely populated, an estimated 90,000 people lived on Matarbari and relied upon shrimp farming and salt cultivation for their livelihoods. That changed in 2013 when communities were forced into a land acquisition process for 5,000 acres to make way for the new coal plants and related coal infrastructure. A survey of residents found many were unable to take part in compensation programs, not provided with alternative employment, and left without their place of work or homes.13 Advocates note that these delays in compensation, alternate housing, and employment do not meet the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s Guidelines for Environmental and Social Considerations.14

10. Bad for the tourist economy
Matarbari Island, the site of the project, lies near Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, an area beloved by tourists for its natural beauty, long sandy shorelines, wildlife sanctuaries, marine reserve, and national parks.15 Air pollution and water pollution from these new coal plants threaten the long-term viability of Cox’s Bazar as a tourist destination and damage the potential for future economic development.

The world is watching to see what Japan will do. Will Bangladeshis be locked into a dirty debt trap with high electricity prices, high air pollution and high global warming pollution? A coalition of organizations in Japan, Bangladesh and across the world are calling upon on the Japanese government to reject financing for a second coal plant at Matarbari.16 For the sake of the company’s reputation, Sumitomo Corporation should withdraw from its role managing and building the Matarbari coal plants.

Sign our petition and tell Sumitomo to be a climate leader, not part of the problem


[1] “Matarbari Power doesn’t bother to disclose Tk10,000cr cost hike.” The Business Standard. Dec. 21, 2019. https://tbsnews.net/bangladesh/energy/matarbari-power-doesnt-bother-disclose-tk10000cr-cost-hike

[2] “Plan to construct 2nd power plant to reduce cost of Matarbari project.” Energy Bangla.  May 31, 2019.

[3] Greenpeace Southeast Asia and Greenpeace Japan. A Deadly Double Standard — How Japan’s Financing of Highly Polluting Overseas Coal Plants Endangers Public Health. Aug. 20, 2019. p 19. https://www.greenpeace.org/southeastasia/publication/2887/double-standard-how-japans-financing-of-highly-polluting-overseas-coalplants-endangers-public-health/

[4] A Deadly Double Standard. p. 23, 24.

[5] The tourist capital of Bangladesh is endangered by plans to build the largest coal power hub in the world. p. 24

[6] Shirashi, Kenji, Daniel Kammen, et. al. "Identifying High Priority Clean Energy Investment Opportunities for Bangladesh." International Centre for Climate Change and Development. Feb. 18, 2018. p. 2. http://www.icccad.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Identifying_investment_Opportunities-for-clean-energy-options-in-Bangladesh.pdf

[7] “Plan to construct 2nd power plant to reduce cost of Matarbari project.”

[8] Samakal News link

[9] Sumitomo Corporation. “Announcement of Work from Home for All Employees” (COVID-19 countermeasure) News Release. https://www.sumitomocorp.com/ja/jp/news/important/group/20200228

[10] Human Rights Now. “Survey Results and Report Regarding 7 General Trading Companies’ Human Rights Policy and Implementation Status.” Feb. 2020.
Japanese: http://hrn.or.jp/news/17225/
English overview: https://hrn.or.jp/eng/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/HRN-Report-on-Japanese-Trading-Companies-and-Human-Rights.pdf

[11] https://www.sumitomocorp.com/en/jp/sustainability/csr#02

[12] Fifth Strategic Energy Plan (Provisional Translation), July 2018. p. 72. https://www.enecho.meti.go.jp/en/category/others/basic_plan/5th/pdf/strategic_energy_plan.pdf

[13] The tourist capital of Bangladesh is endangered by plans to build the largest coal power hub in the world. p. 23-26

[14] Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES). “Factsheet: Matarbari Ultra Super Critical Coal-Fired Power Project (Bangladesh).” Aug. 2019. https://sekitan.jp/jbic/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Matarbari-Factsheet-20190801_EG.pdf

[15] Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), Waterkeepers Bangladesh. The tourist capital of Bangladesh is endangered by plans to build the largest coal power hub in the world. Nov. 2019. p. 2, 13.

[16] “Demand letter to the PM Abe: Don’t finance the phase 2 of Matarbari coal-fired power project in Bangladesh” No Coal Japan website. Apr. 6, 2020. http://www.nocoaljapan.org/demand-letter-to-the-pm-abe-dont-finance-the-phase2-of-matarbari-in-bangladesh/

Global Protests Call on Mitsubishi Corporation to Stop Investing in Coal Power

Climate activists around the world rally in front of Mitsubishi to stop the Vung Ang 2 coal power plant.

Tokyo -- Mitsubishi Corporation is the target of a global action highlighting its plans to build new coal-fired power stations and drive climate change. Today in front of Mitsubishi Corporation’s headquarters in Japan as well as its offices in Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States, climate activists are calling on the company to end its involvement in all coal projects, and specifically, to withdraw from the controversial Vung Ang 2 coal plant proposed in Vietnam.

“We are facing a climate crisis with devastating impacts from extreme weather destroying lives and livelihoods. The global community cannot afford another coal power plant built by Mitsubishi,” said Meg Fukuzawa, energy finance campaigner at Market Forces.

Vung Ang 2 has been in recent spotlight as the project’s only other sponsor, China Light and Power, announced a new decarbonization policy and withdrew in an effort to tackle climate change. Despite a sustained wave of international criticism, Mitsubishi has refused to do the same.

“It is a shame that in the midst of the climate crisis, Mitsubishi Corporation intends to build more dirty coal power plants. In 2018, the IPCC stated that to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, we must reduce emissions 45% by 2030. With just ten years remaining to make deep pollution cuts, there is no time to build new coal plants. Now is a time for action and Mitsubishi Corporation, other large corporations, and governments around the world must phase out coal and hasten the transition to clean, renewable energy sources,” said Mighty Earth Campaign Director, Roger Smith.

“Powerful companies such as Mitsubishi are critical in shifting from coal, the largest driver of climate change, to renewable energy. But the first step is to stop building new coal power, such as the controversial Vung Ang 2 coal plant in Vietnam,” said Ayumi Fukakusa of Friends of the Earth Japan.

Japan’s export credit agency, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) is currently considering financing this project as well, although it does not meet the conditions set by the Japanese government in its Fifth Strategic Energy Plan. Owing to the continued controversy raised by Vung Ang 2 and other coal finance, Japan is considering tightening its requirements for financing its exports of coal power overseas and hopes to release a new policy by June 2020.

"We demand Mitsubishi and the Japanese government halt all its coal financing plans in Asia. As the one of the biggest financiers of coal development in the region, Japan is an enabler of Asia’s coal addiction,” said Asian Peoples’ Movement of Debt and Development (APMDD) Coordinator Lidy Nacpil.

New Investigation: Sumitomo Corporation’s Dirty Energy Investments Highlight Japan’s Failure to Act on Climate

New Investigation: Sumitomo Corporation’s Dirty Energy Investments Highlight Japan’s Failure to Act on Climate

As the international community gathers in Madrid to discuss next steps in the fight against global climate change, a new report is exposing how Japan’s policies are empowering a major corporation that embraces and invests in dirty energy sources like coal and biomass. Mighty Earth’s new report, “Sumitomo Corporation’s Dirty Energy Trade: Biomass, Coal, and Japan’s Future,” illustrates how the massive, Tokyo-based trading company lies at the heart of global coal and biomass networks that mine, chop, finance, ship, and burn the most destructive fuels on Earth. From the American southeast to British Columbia to Vietnam, Sumitomo Corporation is putting global forests at risk to generate electricity for Japan.

“Sumitomo Corporation is moving Japan backwards on climate both at home and abroad,” said Roger Smith, Japan Project Manager at Mighty Earth. “At a time when other countries are negotiating deeper emissions cuts, Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation instead is deepening the problem by continuing to invest in the dirtiest sources of fuel.”

Mighty Earth is calling on Sumitomo Corporation to immediately adopt and implement a ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’ (NDPE) policy and make a public commitment to end involvement in all coal generation and mining of thermal coal globally by 2030.

An Unrepentant Polluter – Sumitomo Corporation’s Coal Business

Sumitomo Corporation has played a pivotal role facilitating coal imports to Japan. And now, as the climate crisis increasingly dominates international headlines, Japan is the only G7 nation still adding to its domestic coal generation. Sumitomo is a key part of this trend; the company continues to own and invest in coal mines, through which it supplies Japan with more than 6 million tons of coal each year.

Sumitomo is also at the forefront of the construction of dirty coal plants abroad. The company is currently building new, polluting coal-fired power plants in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. One of the coal plants Sumitomo is linked to – the Van Phong 1 plant in Vietnam – is particularly controversial as its construction is expected to contribute to approximately 1,900 premature deaths from air pollution over its period of operations.

“Even in the Japanese market where progress on clean energy is moving at a snail’s pace, Sumitomo Corporation is lagging behind its peers.  Through its policy riddled with loopholes, Sumitomo has left itself the space to push ahead any number of coal power stations, including the Van Phong 1 coal power station in Vietnam, a project up to nine times more polluting than the average new build in Japan. The company is also expanding coal power in Bangladesh with two new 1200 MW coal power stations.” said Julien Vincent, Executive Director of Market Forces.

“Building a coal power station in 2019 is foolhardy, when scientific experts agree that to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, we can’t build any more coal power. With international investors increasingly viewing coal as a stranded asset and moving finance out of the sector, many will question why Sumitomo continues to pursue these risky deals.”

Trashing Forests for Fuel – Sumitomo Corporation’s Biomass Business

Japan’s soaring consumption of wood biomass is a crisis in the making. The amount of wood pellets imported into Japan to burn for electricity increased five-fold between 2014 and 2017, placing Japan among the top consumers of wood biomass. Protecting existing forests, which store carbon from the atmosphere, is essential to combating the climate crisis. Increased logging for biomass degrades natural forests and results in forests turned into carbon-poor tree plantations. This process of chopping down trees abroad, processing the wood, and shipping them across oceans to Japan requires the burning of large amounts of fossil fuels.

Sumitomo Corporation is Japan’s leading importer of wood pellets and wood chips, both of which are burned for electricity. Sumitomo has a 55 percent market share of imported wood pellets. The company states that it intends to control 40 percent – 1.6 million tons – of all imported biomass fuel by 2021.

In 2017, Sumitomo Corporation acquired a 48 percent share of Canadian-based biomass producer Pacific BioEnergy, raising concerns about increased logging in the delicate Boreal forests of British Columbia. Sumitomo also contracts for wood pellets with Enviva Partners, a company tied to the logging of critically endangered forests in the Southeastern United States. In North Carolina and other southeastern states, foreign demand for wood pellets has placed additional pressure on an already highly degraded landscape.

“Forests of the Southern US are not only important to communities, but they are the world’s most biologically-diverse temperate forests,” Dogwood Alliance Campaign Director Rita Frost said. “These forests are under immense threat from logging caused by the wood pellet biomass industry, led by Enviva. Enviva’s logging is enabled by overseas companies, like Sumitomo, and will lead to further degradation and loss of our forests. We call on Sumitomo to end their use of imported wood pellets from the Southern United States. Our forests aren’t fuel.”

Climate Laggards

While Sumitomo released a climate policy in August of 2019, it fell overwhelmingly short. While the company pledged not to develop new coal-fired plants, they allowed a glaring loophole for plants deemed to be “essential”, explicitly exempting the Van Phong I project. The policy also lacks a plan or timeline to phase-out coal plants or production of thermal coal. Sumitomo Corporation cannot both be committed to alleviating climate change and also involved in the expansion of coal generation.

Sumitomo has an opportunity to be a climate champion by developing truly clean energy,” said Smith. “Climate change is a crisis that affects our entire world, and we need companies like Sumitomo to lead the way toward solutions. Actions, not just their words, are what matter.”

Mighty Earth and its partners are calling on Sumitomo to develop a detailed implementation plan to exit from coal generation and thermal coal mining by their 2020 annual general meeting, move away from imported forest-derived biomass as a fuel source, adopt a company-wide “No Deforestation, No Exploitation” commitment to forest sustainability, and shift investments into truly clean renewable energy sources.

Petition: Tell Sumitomo Corporation to Be a Climate Leader

Sumitomo Corporation, one of the largest companies in Japan, is making climate change worse by building new polluting coal-fired power plants in Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh, with at least 5 GW of new coal power planned or under construction globally. Sumitomo also owns and invests in coal mines, through which it supplies Japan with more than 6 million tons of thermal and metallurgical coal each year.

Additionally, Sumitomo Corporation is Japan’s leading importer of wood pellets and wood chips, which are burned for electricity. Japan’s soaring consumption of wood biomass is worsening climate change by increasing the intensity of logging in natural forests, accelerating the conversion of natural forests to tree plantations, and contributing to new deforestation. Sumitomo Corporation also imports biomass from various suppliers in Vietnam, even though Vietnam has a poor track record of importing and processing illegally logged wood from Africa and Southeast Asia and also presenting fraudulent certifications for wood biomass.

Sign the petition today and tell Sumitomo to end forest destruction and make the transition to clean renewable energy sources.