Why Japan Needs
to End Coal

As the global struggle against air pollution and climate change becomes even more urgent, Japan’s continued support for coal is a huge threat to the future of the planet and the people on it.

We need to work together to ensure that Japan’s policies stop supporting coal as a source of energy, and instead use its massive financial power to take advantage of the global transition to renewable energy.

Right now, a fleet of new coal-fired power stations is in the pipeline across Asia, Africa and parts of the Middle East. In Indonesia and Vietnam alone, dozens of new coal power stations are under construction and planning. The decisions taken in the next two years could determine if these plans go ahead, locking us into dirty energy for decades – or whether investments are made in clean, renewable energy instead.

Japan is among the world’s largest public financiers of coal-fired power stations. Between 2013 and 2017, Japan provided a massive $14.5 billion in public money for coal plants overseas.

But it’s more than just government funds.

The public money also derisks finance from Japan’s commercial banks. The statistics say it all: in a global comparison looking at loans between 2016-2018, Japan three biggest banks – Mizuho, MUFG, and SMBC – were the 1st, 2nd, and 4th largest lenders to coal project finance globally, providing nearly 27 billion USD in total over three years.

Funding supports Japan’s big corporations, such as Mitsubishi group , Marubeni, ITOCHU and J-Power who profit from building the polluting power plants.

Despite promising to make Japan a climate leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has provided political cover for these companies to profit from pollution, advancing an agenda that puts Japan on the frontlines of the coal expansion.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Japan is also one of the world’s most advanced developers of renewable energy. Our voices can ensure it chooses clean over coal.

Scandals and abuse connected to new Japanese-funded coal plants

These power stations are not only unnecessary; they are causing harm to local communities, too, and increase economic risks. Continued investment in coal presents serious ESG risks. Some of the problems associated with Japanese-funded projects in recipient countries include:

Climate change

If we are to meet the Paris Agreement climate targets, there is no room for new coal power stations to be built anywhere. The world can’t afford more coal, which is the biggest source of carbon pollution.

Increased air pollution

In some parts of Asia, emissions from coal plants are the fastest growing source of PM 2.5 air pollution. These tiny particles enter our lungs, causing serious health problems, respiratory diseases, and premature deaths.

Land grabbing

People are not being fairly compensated for their land, and sometimes have their properties demolished without anywhere else to go.

Economic risks

Coal is becoming an increasingly risky investment given its increasing costs. Profitability is threatened by tightening policies and regulations, such as carbon pricing. While the cost of renewable energy drops every year, new coal plants lock developing countries into decades of high-priced power.

Extreme weather

More coal plants will accelerate climate change, making extreme weather events like typhoons and storms become more frequent and severe.

Ruined livelihoods

Some projects have negatively affected the livelihoods of local people, either through taking over productive land, or through air and water pollution affecting farming and fisheries.

Flawed assessments

Many projects go through a flawed environmental impact assessment process. This means the most damaging projects that don’t meet eligibility criteria are being approved, while corporations turn a profit.

How can we stop this?

Together we can help Japan to shift to clean, renewable energy both domestically and internationally. But to do this, we need to show Japanese politicians and industry leaders the tremendous economic, reputational, and political risks associated with their continued support for coal technology.

There is still
an opportunity to act.

Some of these projects have not yet approved by the government or local authorities. Some are yet to pass environmental assessments. Some more are under construction but still at an early stage. Others could become operational at any moment. This gives us a crucial window to take action and show Japan the world is watching.

Renewable energy technology is becoming cheaper every day, and in many parts of the world is cheaper than new coal, and even cheaper than running existing coal plants. Now is the time to invest in renewables not coal.