Japan out of sync with Cop26 coal phase-out push

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The Japanese leader never mentioned coal. In his November 2 speech at the Cop26 Summit in Glasgow, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida highlighted Tokyo’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 46 percent by 2030 and achieving zero emissions by 2050. He has pledged billions of dollars to help Asia make the transition. towards cleaner energy. He stressed the importance of conserving the world’s forests and reducing disaster risk for vulnerable countries.

But by the time Kishida returned to Tokyo after a 12-hour stay in the UK, the Japanese media had become obsessed with coal. Widespread belief: Japan’s reluctance to give up polluting fossil fuel left him on the sidelines of global efforts to combat the climate crisis. The embarrassment was compounded by the fact that the Climate Action Network gave its Fossil of the day award from Japan for failing to seriously tackle climate change. Two days after Kishida’s performance, the UK announced that 23 countries at Cop26 had fully committed refusal of coal power. Japan – fourth among the world’s largest producers of coal-fired energy – was not one of them.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster a decade ago sparked public opposition to nuclear power, Tokyo turned to fossil fuels to support the economy. Coal-fired power plants currently produce nearly 30% of Japan’s electricity. (Only oil produces more.) For resource-poor Japan, coal is too good to give up: it is plentiful, cost-effective, and critical to maintaining a stable electricity supply.

Critics argue that Tokyo’s addiction to fossil fuels undermines its credibility. Japan was the latest G7 member to cut government funding for overseas coal-fired projects. It is also the only G7 country. still builds coal-fired power plants: over the next decade, new factories they are expected to be connected to Japan’s electricity grid, replacing dozens of aging coal-fired generators that are slated to be decommissioned.

Japanese environmental NGO Kiko Network has called on Tokyo to adopt more ambitious climate policies. The group urged Japan to close all coal-fired power plants by 2030 and set stricter emission reduction targets that are in line with the global target of keeping the planet’s average temperature at 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels. And the world’s third largest economy could lead the way in low-carbon energy inventions – Japan since 2010 served a quarter all international patents in this area, according to the International Energy Agency in Paris.

But at least for the foreseeable future, Japan is betting on coal. The government predicts that solar, wind, biomass, hydroelectricity, and geothermal energy will generate 38 percent of Japan’s energy by 2030, up from about 18 percent in 2019. Coal is expected to be 19 percent of the energy balance… Japan has yet to chart a detailed path to carbon neutrality by 2050, but it hopes to deploy new technologies that are still in development: making electricity from ammonia and hydrogen, or removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it where it won’t warm the planet. …

In April, the country’s largest integrated coal gasification combined cycle power plant opened in Fukushima, which insiders call “clean coal” because it emits lower levels of pollutants. But there are also signs of a shift in the Japanese corporate sector. Around the same time that the Fukushima plant began operating, the two energy consortia canceled plans to build similar coal-fired power plants in the western and northeastern regions of the country. Japan’s largest banks, led by Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, say they will cut funding for future coal-fired projects.

Meanwhile, hundreds of municipalities and regional governments across the country have signed an agreement to begin policymaking and restructuring their economies in preparation for carbon neutrality by 2050. These are the early days, but Japan needs momentum to start believing in a cleaner energy future that is not true. I don’t rely on coal.

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[See also: Fumio Kishida: Why Japan’s new prime minister has his work cut out]

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