EU official cautions Japan about exporting coal-fired power plants


The European Union’s climate change chief has advised Japan to be careful about exporting coal-fired power plants because the technology could prove “unsustainable” in light of the need to rein in global warming.

In a written interview ahead of a U.N. climate summit in Paris, EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said building coal-fired power plants “could lock countries into unsustainable technology: what is perceived as cheaper now could end up being expensive in the future.”

Japan is seeing mounting pressure from Europe and the United States against its efforts to export coal-burning power plants. Japan is reputed to be the world’s largest provider of public financing for coal-related projects overseas.

The EU climate change chief said exporters should at least make sure that any new coal-fired plants use “the most efficient and least-emitting technologies and are suitable for the application of carbon capture and storage technology,” so carbon can be captured and permanently stored instead of released into the atmosphere.

Generally, coal-fueled power plants emit roughly twice as much carbon dioxide than those running on natural gas. Yet because of its lower cost, coal is attractive to developing countries.

With the Paris climate talks approaching, Arias Canete expressed hope that Japan will play its role at the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 conference for striking a new agreement on greenhouse gas emissions.

“The European Union counts on Japan to conclude an ambitious agreement in Paris,” he said, adding the European Union seeks a legally binding agreement that enshrines a long-term goal of cutting global emissions by 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2050.

In working toward the goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, global stock-taking, or review, should take place every five years to consider and strengthen each country’s emission targets, Arias Canete said.

Regarding financing for developing countries in adapting to the impact of climate change, Arias Canete said Europe and other developed countries cannot meet the challenge of climate change alone, indicating that emerging economies such as China should also support developing nations to the extent they can.

In highlighting the urgency of dealing with global warming, Arias Canete said, “As the major international financial institutions have repeatedly said, the costs of inaction are greater than the current investment needs.”