Energy & Environment

The sentencing of Ngụy Thị Khanh, her country’s most high-profile environmental voice, raises questions about Vietnam’s commitment to ditching coal.

Special Climate Envoy John Kerry (left) and his EU counterpart Frans Timmermans  joined a growing chorus demanding the release of climate activists imprisoned in Vietnam. | Stephanie Lecocq/Pool Photo via AP

Vietnam’s decision to sentence a prominent environmental activist to two years in prison has put U.S. and EU climate negotiators in a tough spot as they try to persuade the country to ditch its coal dependence.

U.S. Special Climate Envoy John Kerry and his EU counterpart Frans Timmermans joining a growing chorus demanding the release of Ngụy Thị Khanh and other climate activists imprisoned in Vietnam risks derailing a deal aimed at shifting the ninth largest coal consuming country off the dirtiest fossil fuel. But if they don’t require their release as part of the deal, they face the wrath of civil society organizations who do not want public money for climate action flowing to countries that jail activists.

The situation in Vietnam highlights a broader challenge that climate negotiators face as they must convince nations such as China and Saudi Arabia, which have poor human rights records, to take action to mitigate the climate threat.

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