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Buddhist priest Tomonobu Narita at forefront of movement to withdraw money from banks that support coal, nuclear


Japan’s divestment campaign pits Buddhist priest against banks In the wake of Fukushima, Tomonobu Narita is at the forefront of a movement to withdraw money from banks that back environmentally harmful energy projects.
by Daniel Hurst   May.29.2018 NBC News, YOKOHAMA, Japan — Buddhist priest Tomonobu Narita admits he hadn’t thought much about energy policy until the Fukushima nuclear meltdown forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in 2011. 

Now he’s at the forefront of a budding movement in Japan to withdraw money from banks that provide finance for environmentally harmful energy projects.

“I was taught about the idea of how changing your bank account can contribute to bettering the environment, and that was an enlightenment for me,” said Narita, the third-generation head priest of a temple in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

The campaign to “divest” from fossil fuels such as coal has gained traction in the United States, Europe and Australia in recent years, but environmental activists are now targeting Japan. They see the country as crucial to the success of international efforts to address climate change.

On top of fossil fuels — which release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when burned, contributing to global warming — campaigners here are working to oppose nuclear power.

While advocates of nuclear power say it can provide carbon emissions-free energy, critics say the overall dangers are too high.

Residents are still barred from returning to some of the towns closest to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, where three reactor meltdowns occurred after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Most of the country’s nuclear plants remain offline amid safety checks and legal challenges.

Driven by concern about nuclear power, Narita recently shifted some of his temple’s funds to a financial firm that is rated as one of Japan’s 45 “earth-friendly” banks. This means the bank is not known to provide finance for the fossil fuel and nuclear sectors.

Narita told NBC News he planned to explain the decision to his counterparts in other temples, believing that “we need to be more mindful of what we’re blessed with.”

“That small action when combined [with the actions of others] leads to a bigger effect, so I hope for divestment to have that kind of spread in Japan,” he said during an interview at Totsuka Zenryo Temple. ………

Japan’s Mizuho provided an estimated $11.5 billion in loans to the world’s top coal-plant developers from January 2014 to September 2017, according to analysis published by BankTrack, a pro-renewable energy network. That led to Mizuho being assessed as the most prolific lender in that category, followed by another Japanese financial group, MUFG, in second place, while Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation came in at fifth.

These banks have signaled that they are weighing their future lending criteria………

Takejiro Sueyoshi, a former senior banking executive who is now a special adviser to the United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative, believes it will require strong government leadership for banks to take a more assertive step toward renewables. …….

Some senior government figures, at least, seem to be paying attention. The foreign minister, Taro Kono, recently blasted his country’s lackluster embrace of renewable sources like wind and solar as “lamentable.” ……. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/japan-s-divestment-campaign-pits-buddhist-priest-against-banks-n876301

 

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June 4, 2018 - Posted by | business and costs, Japan, opposition to nuclear

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