The United Nations rejected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s request to speak at its climate summit last September, government sources said Thursday, apparently due to the government’s promotion of coal-fired power plants.
Abe had wanted to brief participants at the U.N. Climate Action Summit on the outcome of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka in June, said the sources, who added the U.N. response may also have been prompted by Japan’s failure to upgrade its goals for greenhouse gas emissions cuts.
“This had to be a summit of action plans, not platitudes,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his closing remarks at the climate summit in New York on Sept. 23.
One of the sources said, “The fact that (Japan) has provided financial assistance for developing countries to construct coal-fired power plants also affected the decision.”
During the summit, numerous leaders announced national goals such as achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, expanding the use of renewable energy and increasing financial assistance for developing countries to fight global warming.
Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg made a speech at the summit, urging world leaders to take immediate action.
Japan was represented by Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, who was not given the opportunity to make a speech.
In June, the Abe Cabinet approved a plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions to zero in the second half of the century. Renewable energy such as solar and wind will be the mainstay of Japan’s energy use to achieve the goal, though coal-fired power plants will remain operational.
A draft plan at a panel tasked with compiling the strategy urged scrapping all coal-fired plants in the long term. But the idea was dropped after it met strong opposition from certain panel members from the business sector, drawing criticism from some environmental organizations.
Meanwhile, the Environment Ministry said Friday that Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions in fiscal 2018 were the lowest on record based on preliminary data, helped by a warm winter, increased output by nuclear power plants and reduced household power consumption.
However, it acknowledged that it still has a long way to go to reach its goal of a 26 percent cut from fiscal 2013 levels by fiscal 2030 set under the Paris climate agreement and that more efforts are needed to curb emissions.
Despite greenhouse gas emissions decreasing for the fifth consecutive year, the decrease for the fiscal year ending March 31 was just 11.8 percent lower than the fiscal 2013 level.
It marked a 3.6 percent decline from fiscal 2017, and totaled the equivalent of 1.24 billion tons of carbon dioxide. The previous low since the government started keeping records in fiscal 1990 occurred in fiscal 2009 with 1.25 billion tons of carbon dioxide.
The reduction in the output by power plants using fossil fuel was also the result of nuclear power generation doubling from its fiscal 2017 level.
This came despite no plants restarting operations in fiscal 2018, and was due to the smooth running of reactors that had already cleared the safety screening made more stringent after the March 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear disaster.
Greenhouse gas emissions from households fell by around 10 percent, with greater use of energy-saving home appliances and less use of heating systems due to a warm winter.
On the other hand, the increased use of air conditioners caused emissions of hydrofluorocarbons and similar gases to rise by 9.4 percent in fiscal 2018.
A law will take effect in fiscal 2020 to tighten control on the disposal of equipment using hydrofluorocarbons.