The world is watching for some climate leadership at the Tokyo Games, but the country’s addiction to coal power is undermining Japan’s green credentials.
While most of the world’s rich countries are decreasing their dependence on carbonpolluting coal in favour of cheap, clean, renewable technology, Japan’s reliance on coal has increased steadily. In fact, Japan is one of the few countries in the G20 to be developing new coal power plants, and one of only three governments to continue to subsidise coal plant development abroad.
Coal power was the biggest single contributor to the rise in global
emissions in 2018. Coal is a major contributor to climate change,
which is causing heat waves, rising sea levels, droughts and other
extreme weather events. According to all climate models, no new
coal plants can be built anywhere in the world and rich countries
have to rapidly phase out coal in order to meet climate targets.
Japan is heading in the wrong direction.
After the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011 and the shutdown of Japan’s reactors, the country increased its reliance on coal and gas power, which resulted in carbon emissions from power generation rising by a quarter.
- The government changed several policies that positioned coal power as an important baseload electricity source. These include the ‘fast tracking’ of environmental impact assessments for new coal plants, and increasing financial support for related business. With this support, 50 new coal plants have been included in Japan’s power development plan since 2012.
- Currently 15 new coal-fired power plants are under construction, including four near the upcoming Olympic Games.
Even after signing on to the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, Japan are funding new coal power stations across Asia, Africa and parts of the Middle East. In Indonesia and Vietnam alone, dozens of new Japanese funded coal power stations are under construction and planning. These projects will lock countries into dirty energy for decades, impacting local livelihoods by taking over productive land, and through air and water pollution, affecting farming and fisheries.
Over the last year, Japan’s megabanks and insurance companies have begun to change their position on coal power by adopting stricter criteria for the financing of coal power. But not one of them went so far as to completely stop lending and investing in coal power projects.
Together we can help ensure that Japan stops supporting new coal, and
instead uses its innovation and resources to move the world towards a
clean energy future.