By: May Boeve
I just got back home after spending two weeks with our 350 teams in Indonesia and Japan (and connecting with the Divest East Asia Network). The trip was a tremendous learning experience and left me with a sense of resolve and optimism given the importance of the fight and the foundation that is being laid to tackle it.
The theme of the trip centered around one word : coal. Asia is the region with the largest projected emissions and both Indonesia and Japan have a critical role to play as major emitters and financiers, respectively. In many places where 350 works globally, coal is looked at as the fuel of the past. So high in emissions and therefore such a threat to the climate; such a steady tide of grassroots resistance effectively closing plants; and the increasingly mainstream economic argument about stranded assets.
But in Indonesia and Japan, it’s a different story. In Indonesia there are numerous proposed plants, and we spent two days visiting with communities in Cirebon and Indramayu who are working day and night to stop construction of two additional plants. They already have one each, neither of which is providing them with any electricity. The story on the ground is a familiar one: little consultation with the community; a lot of empty promises about economic growth; and the results being mostly respiratory disease, coal ash dumped on crops and fisheries; and industry corruption that is tearing the community apart.
So why do these plants keep getting permitted and financed? In Japan, there is still an active argument that coal can be cleaned up, and little concern about the risk of stranded assets. And much less discussion about renewable energy’s promise.
This is the backdrop that the anti coal movements in Japan and Indonesia are facing. But getting to see what they are up to, and our many allies, is that gave me a huge boost of energy from this trip. Not only that, but knowing that with a big more public pressure and attention to the arguments we know work, it can help turn the tide.
The primary way we’re trying to influence the debate is by directly linking the Indonesian and Japanese struggles, and movements, together.We are not along in this–many of our global partners including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and Rainforest Action Network are also pursuing similar goals in coordination with each other.
In Indonesia our goal is to highlight the coal rush and profile the opportunity for alternatives, also focusing on bringing new voices into the debate from outside the environmental movement there. In Japan we’re running the My Bank My Future campaign, which is similar to our campaign in Australia that successfully helped people move their money out of banks that finance coal. In Japan there is a burgeoning ethical consumption movement that is starting to see finance as a critical piece.
This is a perfect example of the kind of unifying narrative we focus on at 350. Coal is a global struggle with very localized impacts. Using the power of the global divestment movement as well as the global Keep it in the Ground movement, we help highlight how all these fights are connected. What can you do about all this?
Please join us for the Global Divestment Mobilization in May–no matter where you live your divestment can help stop the spread of coal.