While government representatives are negotiating how to tackle the climate crisis at COP, voices protesting Japan’s support for coal-fired power generation resonated outside the venue. Japan’s support for coal has been criticized at major international conferences such as COP, particularly amongst developing country members affected by the climate crisis.
One member of a developing country who participated in the protest commented “surely this COP will be the last time we chant Sayonara coal.” They said this not because they held any expectations of Japan to stop promoting coal, but rather because they believed Japan itself would be also further affected by climate change by continuing to promote coal.
The reality is that Japan is facing a climate crisis. Many natural disasters occurred this year, and lives were lost.
At the same time, Hiroshi Kajiyama, the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, stated that he would continue to retain the use of coal. Even as “coal phase-out” is becoming international common sense, Japan received the satirical “Fossil of the Day” award on the first day of COP from the international climate change NGO network Climate Action Network (CAN), awarded to countries that turn their backs to climate change.
Criticism towards Japan’s support for coal extends beyond climate change. In areas where coal-fired power plants are being developed, various problems have been reported including land grabbing, criminalization of residents who opposed the project, harassment, and loss of livelihood.
For example, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) publicly funds the Cirebon coal-fired power plant in Indonesia, in which cases of bribery related to license issuance and drawn-out legal battles regarding environmental permits have surfaced. Investigative authorities in Indonesia have already identified the suspects in both of these cases as former contracted Hyundai construction executives who gave bribes to the former prefectural governor in order to undertake construction. In addition, two senior executives, including the former president of a company receiving investments from Marubeni and JERA (a joint-venture between TEPCO and Chubu Electric Power Co.), have been banned from traveling abroad due to their involvement in the bribery case.
To this point, affected people have challenged JBIC, which continues to finance the project, concerning their loss of livelihood and damage to their health. Additionally, Japanese NGO “Fair Finance Guide Japan” has recently demonstrated in their new report entitled “Indonesian coal power generation rife with corruption” that three mega banks who continue to lend with JBIC (Mizuho Bank, Sumitomo MItsui Banking Corporation, and Mitsubishi UFJ Bank) are not in compliance with 66 points of the international Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) code.
In Vietnam, Japanese companies are involved with two coal-fired power plants, Vung Ang 2 and Vinh Tan 3, and JBIC is reportedly considering to finance the Vung Ang 2 . Furthermore, in Indonesia the Indramayu coal-fired power plant is proceeding with the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Ian Rivera of the Filipino citizens’ group “Philippines Movement for Climate Justice” commented that “In the Philippines, we have repeatedly said “Sayonara Coal,” but the Japanese government refuses to learn from its past mistakes. Typhoons of increasing magnitude, intensity and scale have ravaged both Japan and the Philippines, yet Japan continues to fund the burning of our planet through coal expansion in the Philippines and across Asia. Japan is now prioritizing profits over climate action by peddling so-called clean coal technology with huge subsidies to entice governments. This has to stop. As one of the world’s leading economies, Japan has the resources and obligation to help facilitate a swift transition to clean energy. This has to start by stopping its funding for coal and fossil fuels.”
In developing countries and other poor regions in particular, climate change has become an issue of survival.
Many countries understand the urgency and importance of combating climate change and are phasing out coal.
Japan must develop a roadmap to phase out coal and decarbonize as soon as possible.