Japan, once a climate leader, under fire for coal use at COP26
TOKYO, Nov. 9 (Reuters) – More than 20 countries have agreed to phase out coal-fired power during UN climate talks in Glasgow, but not Japan – a ‘step back’ for one country which has already paved the way for the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The pact was part of a series of commitments made at the COP26 summit last week. Japan, the world’s third-dirtiest fossil fuel importer, refused to sign because it had to preserve all of its power generation options, officials said.
Critics have called it myopic, even as new prime minister Fumio Kishida has agreed to step up other environmental measures.
“Although Prime Minister Kishida has pledged to devote more funds to climate finance, we are disappointed that he did not address the elephant in the room – Japan’s dependence on coal,” said Eric Christian Pedersen , responsible for responsible investments at Danish fund manager Nordea Asset Management. .
The review highlights the changed circumstances in Japan. He led efforts to tackle climate change during the Kyoto Protocol era of the 1990s, but burned more coal and other fossil fuels after the Fukushima disaster 10 years ago left many inactive nuclear power plants. Read more
The non-phasing out of coal has “positioned Japan to take a step back by signaling that thermal power plants can continue to operate on the basis of new technologies that do not exist,” said Kiran Aziz, responsible investment manager at KLP, Norway’s largest pension fund.
China, the world’s largest source of gas fueling climate change, did not sign the pact and President Xi Jinping did not attend the conference. The country has announced that it will reduce its use of coal for electricity by 1.8% over the next five years.
Japan has pledged billions of dollars for vulnerable countries and to support building infrastructure in Asia for renewable energy and cleaner fuels. It has also reduced targets for coal use and raised targets for renewable energies. Read more
“In Japan, where resources are scarce and the country is surrounded by the sea, there is no perfect energy source,” Noboru Takemoto, deputy director of the Ministry of Industry, told Reuters. “For this reason, Japan does not support the” statement on coal.
The ministry said last year it would speed up the shutdown of coal-fired power plants by 2030, later setting minimum efficiency standards and forcing companies to submit annual updates on phase-outs.
But companies are resisting such plans, said a senior executive at a major Japanese generator set.
“This is delayed and dragged out because many companies say these units are still running and are cheaper,” the executive said, adding that “a leadership push is needed”.
A Reuters survey of Japanese companies operating old coal-fired power plants, including Hokuriku Electric Power (9505.T) and Hokkaido Electric Power (9509.T), showed most of them had not decided calendar to close them.
Hokuriku Electric plans to shut down a single 250-megawatt coal unit in 2024, a spokesperson told Reuters,
“Our coal-fired power plants play an important role,” the spokesperson said.
Hokkaido Electric, which closed two coal units in 2019, has no planned shutdowns, while the other five companies surveyed said they had no firm proposals. Some are considering using cleaner fuels, such as ammonia, to burn with coal and other technologies to keep them running cleaner. Read more
“For Japanese coal-friendly companies, what matters most is business, not the planet,” said Mutsuyoshi Nishimura, a former senior Japanese government official and chief climate change negotiator. “It’s sad that there is no vision for a better, more sustainable and more competitive Japan.”
Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick and Yuka Obayashi. Editing by Gerry Doyle
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