Coal is the leading source contributing to pollution and climate change in the world; it currently accounts for one-third of all CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Coal’s contamination seriously affects the quality of our health, wildlife and environment. It has been ingrained into our industrial production so deeply that it is the biggest global source of fuel for generating electricity. Renewable energy is obtained by natural resources that can be constantly replenished without causing harm to the planet. Government officials are reluctant to modify their energy plans against coal however, if change doesn’t come soon, it may be too late to save what world we have left. This is why launched the People’s Climate Mobilisation Vietnam (PCM Vietnam) in September and chose coal as the theme.

The campaign aimed to engage the public and gather support for climate change mitigation. With the use of innovative communication, mobilized the youth of Vietnam to spread information about coal and renewable energy. Ultimately, the goal is to send a message towards the Government of Vietnam to change its energy strategies in hopes of a more sustainable future. With various activities in major cities like Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Da Nang and Can Tho, the campaign raised awareness throughout the whole country.

PCM Vietnam kicked off in Da Nang with Climate Change Communications Camp, from September 05-07. Organized by and Redraw the Line, the camp brought together 60 young people from all over the country to learn and share ideas on climate change campaigning.This was the first opportunity for the campers to experiment with digital tools and develop efficient, innovative and low cost actions for the campaign.

Next was the Black Mask project, a photo series of people performing their daily routine while wearing a gas mask. The idea was to convey the message “Our daily lives would be mixed up if coal pollution got serious.” These photos were shared on social media networks with related hashtags accumulating about 200 contributors. The series, eventually named “I cannot…” was also published on mass media outlets on September 18 and encouraged the community to participate.

On top of these efforts, also launched multiple media campaigns to raise public awareness on climate change. The highlight of these campaigns was that the future development of Vietnam must be based upon renewable energy to ensure sustainability for both humans and the environment. These were implemented with innovative methods through social networks and digital platforms with the support of many media agencies. 

The main event of the campaign, named September Black Day, took place in all of the participating cities throughout the country on 21/09. Volunteers covered their bodies in black body paint, thus becoming “living coal statues” in order to engage an audience while distributing information about coal. This different approach generated interest and excitement from the public. Citizens and tourists alike were lining up to take pictures with the statues as they marched around many famous sites of the country.   

“Communicating about climate change is always a great challenge to us. Things even get harder when it comes to a new and macro issue like coal.” Ms. Le Tran Khanh Vy – the Communications Coordinator of People’s Climate Mobilisation Vietnam shared. “However, we’re very excited to bring up and analyze this issue in a creative way. Hopefully, with this fresh and lively approach, young people and community as a whole will find it easier to absorb knowledge about climate change and environmental protection in general. “

The event made an impact attracting an estimated 1,000 participants. In Ho Chi Minh, the march moved from 30/4 Park to the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office and Turtle Lake. In other parts of the country, activities took place at Hoan Kiem Lake (Hanoi), Mother Au Co Statue (Da Nang) and Ninh Kieu (Can Tho).

People’s Climate Mobilisation Vietnam is a successor of Vietnam Power Shift which took place in 2013. This campaign plays as a first step of a long-term awareness campaign about coal of Vietnam and its partners and allies.

The campaign enjoys the patronage of CHANGE as well as companionship of some organizations like GreenID, Live & Learn, Network of Artists Acting for Climate (NAAC) and TinMoiTruong.

Blog written by Bethany Lovato, Vietnam’s volunteer