The 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) is being held between December 2nd and December 13th in Madrid, Spain. For the second time voices protesting Japan’s support for preserving coal power resonate outside the venue as COP25 participants discuss climate change initiatives inside.
Standing before COP, Hiroshi Kajiyama, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, stated clearly that coal is to be preserved despite “coal phase-out” becoming an international norm. In response to his remark, Japan was awarded the satirical “Fossil of the Day” award, given to countries that turn their backs to climate change, on the first day of COP by the Climate Action Network (CAN), an international network of environmental NGOs that tackle climate change.
Photo 1: December 5th demonstration outside of the COP25 venue IFEMA
As the second week’s ministerial-level meeting drew near, the voice of civil society calling for Japan to phase-out coal again resounded at the venue. Although the Japanese government was expected to commit to raising its targets and phasing-out coal at COP25, before the event began there was a media report that claimed Japan would not break from its support of overseas coal power plants development . When Minister Koizumi arrived at the venue on the morning of the 10th, he was met with these “expectations” in the form of yet another protest.
Photo 2: December 10th demonstration outside of the COP25 venue IFEMA (by Hanae Takahashi, FoE Japan)
Looking ahead at the Paris Agreement after 2020 and beyond, next year will be an important year for climate change negotiations. It is also a year in which Japan will attract international attention as the host country of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. During the protest on the 10th, there was a scene in which Japanese Prime Minister Abe was awarded a “coal medal” for his continued support of coal. The protest also called for Minister Koizumi to make a positive commitment to phasing-out coal and strengthening Japan’s climate change targets during his speech scheduled for December 11th.
Unfortunately, while Minister Koizumi acknowledged and accepted criticism of Japan’s support for coal in his speech the following day, he did not mention any commitment to phasing-out coal or increasing Japan’s targets. In response, Japan won its second “Fossil of the Day” award of COP25.
Photo 3: December 11th “Fossil of the Day” award ceremony
Protests against the Japanese government’s continued support for overseas coal were widely covered by media outlets both within Japan and abroad. This issue was not well known in Japan until now. The voice of civil society helped to make it visible and could be a first step towards real change.
Most importantly, however, is that Minister Koizumi will return to Japan and use the criticism that he received to develop a concrete plan to remove domestic coal, stop support for overseas coal, and strengthen the country’s climate change targets.
Ayumi Fukakusa is a campaigner for FoE Japan.