2019-09-16 Oil Change International
Susanne Wong, Oil Change International, susanne@priceofoilorg, +1 510 847 3759
Share this page:
As leaders of the UNFCCC’s Sports for Climate Action Framework prepare to gather at the International Olympic Committee’s headquarters in Lausanne on September 18th, 25 civil society organizations from 14 countries have written to IOC President Thomas Bach expressing concern over the health and safety of athletes and fans at next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and urging him to use his platform “to encourage Olympic host cities and governments, such as Japan, to take urgent action to address the climate crisis.”
“The climate emergency we are in is threatening global health and safety, undermining livelihoods and food supplies and disrupting economies. This crisis is also now endangering the long-term viability of the Olympic Games,” reads the letter.
Groups expressed concern with intense heatwaves in July that hospitalized tens of thousands and killed at least 50 people in Japan, including a worker at an Olympic construction site. This year’s heatwave follows a deadly heat wave in Japan in the summer of 2018, which, according to research by the Japan Meteorological Agency, “would never have happened without anthropogenic global warming.”
The organizations highlight the hypocrisy of promoting a “sustainable” Tokyo 2020 Olympics while the Japanese government and several major Olympic sponsors continue to finance new coal-fired power projects, locking in decades of new emissions.
Four new coal-fired power plants are expected to begin operation in Japan next year when the Olympics kicks off.
Internationally, the Japanese government spends $5 billion a year supporting coal mining and coal power production in other countries. In the past few months, the Japanese government has approved $2.5 billion in loans for the Matarbari coal plant in Bangladesh and for the Van Phong 1 coal plant in Vietnam, which Greenpeace estimates will lead to 2,970 premature deaths due to air pollution. Japan’s continued government support for coal runs counter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ call for an end to new coal-fired power plants after 2020.
Three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Gold Sponsors are major backers of coal. Japanese megabanks Mizuho and SMBC are among the world’s largest lenders to coal developers globally and are the biggest lenders and underwriters to coal developers in Japan. Olympic sponsor Tokio Marine is one of the world’s leading power and energy sector insurance companies and has recently come under fire for its financial support of coal projects.
Susanne Wong, Senior Campaigner of Oil Change International, says, “Behind the high-tech veneer of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the Japanese government and Olympic sponsors like Mizuho, SMBC and Tokio Marine continue to promote dirty and outdated coal technology that is fueling the climate crisis.”
Notes to editors:
The Sports for Climate Action Framework was launched by the UNFCCC and sports organizations in December 2018 to “raise awareness and action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.” The IOC was a founding signatory. Tokyo 2020 Olympics joined the initiative the day after it was launched.
Signatories are gathering for the first time in Lausanne on September 18, 2019. Sports for Climate Action signatories will meet once a year to look at the progress made with principles. This first meeting will be used to kick off work to develop roadmaps for adhering to the principles.