Samsung faces youth climate protests over involvement in new Vietnam coal plant

Image: Ron Fassbender

Co-ordinated by The Sunrise Project, the protest has also drawn participants from groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future. It is drawing attention to the fact that Samsung’s construction & trading arm, Samsung C&T, is in talks with equipment provider Doosan Heavy Industries to help construct the Vung Ang 2 coal-fired power plant in Vietnam.

Planning permission is currently being sought for the plant, which will consist of two 600MW turbines. Should permission be granted, the first turbine will come online in 2024 and the second in 2025, with the facility set to have a working lifespan of at least 30 years.

Green groups, community groups and lawyers have repeatedly warned that the construction of the plant would be at odds with the Paris Agreement, which Vietnam has signed, and that coal ash from the plant would negatively impact local farming land across the Ha Tinh province. As such, the installation of the plant is already more than ten years behind schedule. Opponents claim that the business case for the plant has gradually weakened as nations set stronger climate commitments, insurers divest from coal and reinsurance becomes less available.

The latest wave of direct action targeting Samsung C&T began in Seoul earlier this week. Protests have also taken place in Manila and Tokyo, with a further protest planned for San Francisco and a digital strike being led by Youth4ClimateAction and Greta Thunberg’s Fridays 4 Future. Attendees are using banners and placards stating “backing coal is the wrong call” and “make the right call on coal”.

edie has contacted Samsung for a response to the protests but has not yet received a response. This article will be updated in due course.

“We are urging Samsung business affiliates to stay away from constructing, underwriting or providing services for coal projects globally, most particularly now in the case of Vung Ang 2 in Vietnam,” the Sunrise Project’s strategist and advisor for finance in East Asia, Tanya Roberts Davis, said.

“Samsung has a clear choice: become mired in the economic, health and ecological crises associated with this project or take heed of communities and civil society worldwide.”

Climate activism and Covid-19

Last year, climate activists took aim at Samsung C&T for the involvement of its Securities arm in the Adani coal port project in Queensland, Australia. Permission for the project was approved by the Australian government last year but, since then, it has lost the support of various businesses and investors.

Samsung Securities withdrew from Adani earlier this year, following a boycott campaign spearheaded by School Strike 4 Climate Australia. It also promised not to participate in any of Adani’s other coal projects.

2019 was undeniably a landmark year for climate activism, with activists being invited to speak at the European Parliament, UK Parliament and at COP25, as the school strikes movement escalated. The conference saw more than half a million people gather for a peaceful march through Madrid.

Once Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020, many activist groups had to put in-person protests on hold. But action did not stop, and physical events were replaced by digital strikes, online webinars, social media takeovers and Tweetbombing – where activists spam companies and individuals accused of climate inaction with comments on Twitter. Now, socially distanced events are resuming in many places.

Sarah George

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