A report by InfluenceMap identifies foreign pro-gas lobbying activities in Vietnam. Environmental activists face increasing threats to speak out against the government.
Business interests in Japan and South Korea are pushing Vietnam to embrace gas as a core part of its energy mix amid a relentless crackdown of those critical of the country’s energy policies.
According to InfluenceMap analysis, the government is requesting new investments in gas infrastructure as the country of southeast Asia finalizes its delayed 2030 power development plan.
These foreign companies lobby mainly through business groups and push the government to allow and speed-track new liquefied gas import infrastructure.
Yuna Chan, who led the research, told Climate Home: “These foreign players are actively taking advantage of this moment of climate transition to make a place for their own gas industry.”
This report comes just days after Nguy Thi Khanh, an anti-coal activist and environmentalist, was sentenced to two year imprisonment. She had been detained and arrested on tax evasion charges. She is the fourth environmentalist to face similar charges in recent months.
Nithi Nesadurai, director and regional coordinator of the Climate Action Network South East Asia (Cansea), of which Nguy Thi served as chair, said she had been imprisoned “as part of an effort to silence dissent from environmental groups”.
Influence Map’s report published Tuesday analysed the engagement on climate policy in Vietnam of six Japanese companies, five Korean companies and eight industry groups.
It found that the industry is pitching gas as a solution to Vietnam’s energy needs – one that can support decarbonisation without compromising economic growth.
This tactic of pitching gas as a solution to the energy transition, energy security and economic development is part of a wider “playbook” to promote gas across Asia, it adds.
Vietnam has seen a tremendous uptake in solar energy and wind power since 2018, but it has the largest planned gas expansion South East Asia has ever seen, with 56.3GW currently in pre-construction, construction, or development.
InfluenceMap’s research found a significant increase in industry references to LNG as a “low carbon” solution to Vietnam’s energy transition goal.
In 2019, just 11% of corporate statements in favour of LNG reference the “low-carbon” argument. After the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow (UK), Vietnam set a goal of net zero emissions by 2050, and also pledged to eliminate coal-power generation by 2040, this number rose to 85%.
“That’s when we see a huge explosion of messaging from the gas industry that… is trying to frame itself as the low-carbon alternative to coal,” said Chang.
Carbon Tracker’s analysis has shown that solar and wind are much cheaper than gas investments, and there is a lot of offshore wind potential. Boosting gas investments will cause consumers to pay more for energy and leave infrastructure exposed.
The report doesn’t focus on domestic lobbying for gas and fossil fuels in Vietnam because of increasing sensitives and associated risks of speaking out against the government on environmental issues.
Campaigners claim powerful vested interest have made activism in Vietnam extremely risky. Climate Home was not able to reach many activists or analysts based in Vietnam about recent developments.
International campaign group Climate Action Network called for Nguy Thi’s release, arguing that the charges were a pretext to prevent her from doing her work.
Nguy Thi received the prestigious Goldman Prize. She was recognized for her efforts in highlighting the environmental and financial costs of coal power, and for partnering with officials to accelerate the development of renewable alternatives.
“Her arrest has already had a chilling effect on other environmental civil society groups advocating for environmental protection and addressing the effects of climate change, on behalf of the Vietnamese people,” said Nesadurai.
In the last six month, activist Bach Hung Duong as well journalist Mai Phan Loi (and campaigner Dang Di Dinh Bach) were all sentenced for similar tax fraud. These two were part of a network which monitored the impact of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement on land rights and environmental strategies.
The US State Department called on the Vietnamese government to release Nguy Thi and “other detained environmental activists working for the benefit of Vietnam and its people”.
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Nguy Thi was born into a rural family in Bacam, a village in northern Vietnam. He grew up close to a coal-plant and witnessed firsthand the pollution.
The 2011-2020 Power Development Plan of the Vietnamese government was published in 2011. It forecasted a massive rise in energy needs. The government demanded 75,000MW of new coal-fired power capacity by 2030.
Nguy Thi, a Vietnamese NGO working on energy issues, founded the Green Innovation and Development Centre (GreenID).
Her research revealed that the government’s projected energy needs were less than they anticipated. She also worked to reduce the planned coal capacity.
Her advocacy led to the government’s publication of a revised plan with reduced coal capacity and a goal of 21% of renewable power in the energy mix by 2030.
Source: Climate Change News