Over 150,000 call on U.S. Export-Import Bank to reject coal, #SaveSundarbans
U.S. Ex-Im Bank Has Been Linked To Toxic Coal Projects In Bangladesh, Threatens UNESCO World Heritage Site
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. environmental groups, U.S-based South Asian community groups, and others joined together to deliver more than 150,000 petitions to the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) to call on the bank to reject the proposals for toxic overseas coal projects in Bangladesh. The bank, which receives its funding from U.S. taxpayer dollars, has been rumored to be considering financing a destructive and unnecessary coal-fired power plant near the Sundarbans, the world’s largest continuous mangrove forest. The Sundarbans spans the border of India and Bangladesh, is home to endangered species like the Bengal tiger and Irrawaddy dolphin, provides a home and livelihood for upwards of six million people, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
Among the groups delivering the signatures are the Sierra Club, Friends of Earth, Rainforest Action Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Bangladesh Environmental Network, EcoSikh, Brown and Green: South Asian Americans for Climate Justice, and Environmental Movement Atlanta.
There’s a groundswell of action happening to save the Sundarbans on the ground in Bangladesh as well as around the world, with opposition to coal projects threatening the Sundarbans taking place across Bangladesh and increasingly at the international level. Similar to what’s happening in the U.S., a coalition of civil society groups worldwide as well as hundreds of thousands of individuals are calling on the Ex-Im Bank of India to abandon its financing plans for another coal plant located close to the Sundarbans.
“For the U.S. Export-Import Bank to even consider using U.S. tax dollars to finance any overseas coal project is reckless and unnecessary, but to consider financing projects that will irreparably damage one of the world’s most ecologically sensitive and valuable ecosystems is downright unconscionable,” said John Coequyt, the Sierra Club’s Global Climate Policy Director. “We’ve already seen how clean energy is bringing electricity to the people of Bangladesh like never before, and to invest even one cent of U.S. money into the fossil fuels that have consistently failed to reach the needs of billions of people, would be a disservice and an insult to the people of Bangladesh.”
“Public opposition to financing fossil fuel projects like the coal plants in Bangladesh that the U.S. Export-Import Bank is reportedly considering financing is occurring all over the world. Over 150,000 American taxpayers have spoken, and they don’t want their money used to destroy our planet and people’s livelihoods,” said Jenny Bock, economic justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S. “Fossil fuel projects like those threatening the Sundarbans and Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka will not address the country’s energy access needs and will yield no long-term economic benefits. Instead, the U.S. Ex-Im Bank should finance distributed renewable energy projects in Bangladesh to improve access to electricity and help the country develop sustainably.”
“It is nothing less than hypocritical and outrageous that the United States Export-Import Bank wants to use American taxpayer dollars to finance two horrible coal-burning power plants in a developing country that needs clean energy not premature disease,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Global warming, public health and Bengal tiger populations will all be much worse off if this boondoggle moves forward.”
“As a South Asian American group, we are outraged that the U.S. government is considering using our tax dollars to finance harmful coal projects in Bangladesh,” said Barnali Ghosh of Brown and Green: South Asian Americans for Climate Justice. “These projects would further endanger the Sundarbans, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, cause serious harm to the health and livelihood of the millions of people in Bangladesh and India that live near the proposed coal projects and disproportionately impact a region that is already vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. We call on U.S. Export-Import Bank to immediately reject financing all fossil fuel projects in Bangladesh, including the Orion coal projects, and to instead finance renewable energy. Anything else is an investment that Bangladesh and the world simply cannot afford.”
“As a low-lying nation, Bangladesh is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world, subject to rising seas and ever stronger storms. The US Export-Import Bank’s support for these projects would further imperil the country and betray the Paris Climate Agreement by funneling taxpayer dollars into dirty coal plants that threaten the habitats of endangered species, a precious ecosystem, and the wellbeing of millions of people,” said Alison Kirsch of Rainforest Action Network.
“We do not want any party to support coal based power plants in Bangladesh till the government approves a pro-people and pro-environment national coal policy,” said Advocate Sultana Kamal, Convenor of National Committee for Saving the Sundarbans. “Given the previous incidences of protests against coal plants costing lives, the investors will do good to refrain from supporting coal plants in Bangladesh till a fully independent and internationally accepted EIA has been conducted by credible institutions having no conflict of interest and the government details out and finalizes public consultation processes by binding rules. Sundarbans is just too precious to bet on- if we lose it, we can’t have a second Sundarbans, and we need it not for Bangladesh only but for the entire global community.”
With the Senate expected to vote in an Ex-Im board member soon, U.S. Ex-Im Bank could make a decision to finance the Orion projects as early as this July. Once financing kicks in, construction for the projects could start a mere few days later.
Photos of the petition delivery available here.
Cindy Carr, Sierra Club, (202) 495-3034 or [email protected]
Kate Colwell, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0744 or [email protected]
Alison Kirsch, Rainforest Action Network, (203) 520-7184 or [email protected]