Protesters target Samsung stores as Samsung C&T mulls building coal plant in Vietnam

Protests have been held this month outside Samsung’s flagship electronics stores in Palo Alto, California and Oxford Street, London because the Korean conglomerate’s construction arm is in talks to build a controversial coal-fired power plant in Vietnam.

Protests have also been held in Seoul, Manila and Tokyo, with lawyers and green groups warning that the plant falls foul of the Paris Agreement, which South Korea and Vietnam each signed.

The plant is the 1,200MW Vung Ang 2 project in Ha Tinh province, Vietnam, which opponents say would emit 6.6 million tons of greenhouse gases a year, and more than 200 million tons over its 30-year operational life span.

Samsung C&T is the potential contractor.

The latest protests took place on 21 August in London and 22 August in Palo Alto.

Samsung is sensitive to protests targeting its electronics brand, which sells the Galaxy range of mobile devices.

After similar protests last month, another entity, Samsung Securities, said it would stop financing the Adani Abbot Point Terminal, a coal port in Queensland, Australia.

Entities of the Samsung conglomerate are also financing coal power projects in South Korea and abroad.

Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance and Samsung Life Insurance have funded 17%, some $500m, of the 2GW Samcheok coal power project under construction in South Korea, the Korean climate organisation Solutions For Our Climate told GCR.

The company’s ongoing involvement in coal power is at odds with its claims that it is "acting now for a sustainable, low-carbon future".

Korea’s state majority-owned power utility, Kepco, has also come under fire for its plans to invest in Vung Ang 2, and another coal plant in Indonesia. A decision is expected from Kepco’s board imminently.

As GCR reported in June, South Korea’s official overseas investment auditor, the Korea Development Institute, had assessed both the Vietnamese and Indonesian schemes as potentially loss-making, meaning that Kepco would not only be contributing to the climate crisis, but that it stood to lose millions of dollars in the process as well.

"In light of the global climate crisis, many tech companies like Apple and Amazon are committing themselves to 100% renewables and clean energy. However, Samsung is decidedly bucking this trend," Sejong Youn, an attorney and head of coal finance at Solutions for Our Climate, told GCR.

He added: "Vietnam has established a strong plan for energy transition earlier this year, including phase-out for coal power. Korean companies rushing for a new coal power plant in Vietnam is not going to help anyone. 

"It is deeply disappointing that Samsung C&T is even considering this project because it shows that they have not properly considered climate related risks into their decision making process. 

"Various affiliates of Samsung Group have significant exposure to coal and the consumers around the world are raising issues with it. Samsung C&T’s involvement in the new coal power project in Vietnam will inevitably result in a huge reputation risk for the entire Samsung brand."

GCR has contacted Samsung C&T for comment.

Image: A protester in Seoul (Supplied by Solutions for Our Climate)

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