24th May 2023
For a Swift Closure of Cirebon Coal-Fired Power Project Unit 1;
Keeping Unit 2 Out of Operation: Open Solidarity Statement
We extend our solidarity with community members from West Java, Indonesia who are taking a public stand in Tokyo this week to assert the need for a swift closure of the Cirebon Coal-Fired Power Project Unit 1 and to question the rationale for bringing the adjacent Unit 2 facility into full operation. As the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is now in the process of considering options to refinance Cirebon Unit 1 as the first proposed pilot under the Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM), we urge the ADB to be accountable to the very people who will be affected by this upcoming transaction, heeding and acting upon their demands.
Notably, Cirebon Unit 1 was not identified by ADB’s own scoping studies as a priority for the ETM. Instead, ADB has suggested that the project was selected in part due to the track record of the operating company (Cirebon Electric Power) on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and community engagement. Yet the reality is that since plans for the development of the Cirebon Unit 1 were made public in 2007, local residents have mobilized tirelessly to call for the project to be canceled and operations suspended. Now, as a consequence of the facility’s operations over the past 13 years, residents have lost the ability to carry on key income generating activities that they depended upon for survival – including harvesting shrimp and undertaking artisanal salt production. Toxic fly ash has also contaminated the surrounding residential areas causing residents of all ages to experience severe chronic respiratory problems. However, there has never been compensation, reparations or remedy for such losses. Voluntary CSR programs for local schools and clinics or tree planting, for instance, do not ameliorate the loss of livelihood dignity, health and community well-being.
Looking ahead, it remains to be seen if Cirebon Electric Power is genuinely prepared to respond to community concerns if plans for the plant’s decommissioning process get underway, specifically how the social and environmental havoc caused by the plant’s operations will be remedied, who will pay, and what time-bound benchmarks will be agreed upon.
As the ADB is currently undertaking a social and environmental audit of the site as part of an assessment of existing gaps with its own safeguard standards, we echo the concerns of residents in their assertion that they, as affected community members, should be involved in guiding such an assessment process from the outset, helping to ensure it realistically captures the range of issues that require remedy and reflects site-specific rights-based recommendations. It is incumbent upon the ADB to clearly commit to ensuring that the resolution of social and environmental harms identified in this audit will be in line with its own safeguard standards and that residents of the surrounding communities will have unhindered access to its Accountability Mechanism.
We also note that the ADB has made no commitment to disclose the terms and conditions of the renegotiated power purchase agreement (PPA) of Cirebon Unit 1 to local people, workers or concerned civil society groups. In this regard, we support residents and allied civil society organizations calling for public disclosure of any revised PPA, and reiterate the call for Cirebon Unit 1 to be closed at the earliest possible time.
Alarmingly, ADB has suggested that ‘fuel switching’ may be considered at ETM sites, including Cirebon Unit 1. We join with concerned community members and other allied civil society organizations in denouncing any initiative to enable the extension of the life of this coal power project or others selected for piloting under the ETM in the future, through co-firing with hydrogen / ammonia or biomass or resorting to reliance on Refuse Derived Fuels/other waste products. Any consideration of development of carbon capture and storage facilities is also unacceptable.These are dangerous distractions which will serve to keep carbon and resource-intensive, polluting projects like Cirebon 1 in operation rather than helping to pivot towards reliance on appropriately scaled renewable energy options.
Finally, we join with residents and allied civil society organizations in questioning why the very same corporate interests involved in building and operating the 660MW Cirebon Unit 1 are engaging in the ADB’s ETM, while simultaneously bringing online the larger 1000MW Cirebon Unit 2. Not only is this contradictory, it exposes a cavalier willingness to keep business operating as usual at all costs – including to people’s livelihoods, the climate and planetary commons. There is no rational reason for the same companies to pursue kickstarting the operations of Cirebon Unit 2 at full capacity, as it will inevitably lead to continued and exacerbated health and livelihood problems for local people. It is crucial that loan disbursements be suspended as called for by residents from the surrounding communities. By getting involved in initial negotiations for the refinancing of Cirebon Unit 1, the ADB cannot turn a blind eye to the realities of Cirebon Unit 2 and dismiss it as simply unconnected but rather should be addressing it head on in their discussions with the parent company and project proponents. This is most especially in the context that the ADB, and Cirebon Unit 1 project proponents consistently suggest the ETM is being pursued in the interests of a just transition.
Going forward, we urge the ADB to respond directly to the residents of communities surrounding Cirebon Units 1 and 2, providing assurances that if they continue to pursue negotiations for piloting Cirebon Unit 1 under the ETM:
The process will be proactively reshaped to ensure local people are involved through participatory, inclusive fora in any forthcoming decommissioning and remedial action plans,
Priority will be placed on swift closure of the plant and reparatory justice as a matter of urgency,
Unhindered access to the ADB’s own Accountability Mechanism will be assured, and
Any options that would serve to extend the life of the project and/or continue to have devastating social and environmental consequences will not be pursued by the ADB or ETM partner institutions.
350.org Asia, Asia
350 Indonesia, Indonesia
350 Pilipinas, Philippines
Accountability Counsel, Global
Aksi! for gender, social and ecological justice, Indonesia
Africa Coal Network, Regional (Africa)
Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), Regional
Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED), Bangladesh
Bank Information Center, USA
Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organization (BIRUDO), Uganda
Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL), Bangladesh
Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), Philippines
Climate Watch Thailand, Thailand
CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network), Bangladesh
Consumer Foundation, Mongolia
Environmental Defender Law Center, USA
Environmental Public Society, Armenia
Freedom from Debt Coalition, Philippines
Friends of the Earth Japan, Japan
Germanwatch e.V., Germany
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) — Asia Pacific, Regional (Asia Pacific)
groundWork/Friends of the Earth - South Africa, South Africa
Haki Jamii Rights Centre, Kenya
Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), India
Indigenous Women Legal Awareness Group (INWOLAG), Nepal
Initiative for Right View (IRV), Bangladesh
Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS, Inc), Philippines
International Accountability Project, Global
Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES), Japan
Jubilee Australia Research Centre, Australia
Kiko Network, Japan
Nash Vek, Kyrgyzstan
NGO Forum on ADB, Regional
Network Movement for Justice and Development, Sierra Leone
Oil Workers' Rights Protection Organization Public Union, Azerbaijan
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan
Peace Point Development Foundation (PPDF), Nigeria
Phenix Center, Jordan
Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Philippines
SPELL (Solidarity for People's Education and Lifelong Learning), Philippines
Trend Asia, Indonesia
Youth Group on Protection of Environment, Tajikistan
Read the statement by residents living around the Cirebon Coal Power Project which was also addressed to ADB President Asakawa here and signed by over 60 civil society organizations from across the Asia Pacific and beyond (original in Bahasa Indonesia)