Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi’s recent remarks raising doubts over the country’s coal-fired power plant exports have been met with a backlash from within the government and ruling bloc, while earning favorable responses from opposition lawmakers.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Koizumi pointed out that a project in Vietnam in which Japan is involved does not meet government standards for coal-fired thermal power plant exports.
An official in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party criticized the remarks. “I understand his desire to demonstrate his presence, but he should be careful with what he says so that his remarks won’t be taken as discord within the Cabinet,” the official said.
Koizumi’s remarks came as Japan’s coal power plant exports are under fire from the international community for running counter to efforts to fight global warming.
The minister has been exploring ways to restrain such exports, but Koizumi has been unable to present specific measures as the environment minister has no authority over infrastructure exports and energy policy.
The government’s basic energy plan stipulates that Japan supports the introduction of cutting-edge power generation equipment if a request is made to introduce the country’s high-efficiency coal-fired power generation technology.
A Japanese trading house, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp. and others, has invested in the project in Vietnam, while the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and others are considering loans for it. But its construction is expected to be undertaken by U.S. and Chinese firms, according to the Environment Ministry and other sources.
In his Tuesday remarks, Koizumi indicated his intention to hold talks with government agencies in charge of energy policy.
An official at the industry ministry, which oversees energy policy, said, “The construction of high-efficiency coal-fired thermal plants meets government standards, and such projects will contribute to cutting carbon dioxide emissions.”
“Was it all right to unilaterally disclose what was under discussion?” the official asked, expressing discomfort with the environment minister’s remarks.
“We’ve not decided on financing,” a JBIC official said of the project in Vietnam. “We’ll make a decision after looking at government policy.”
It is uncertain whether the environment minister’s views can win support within the government. “It’s difficult to stop the project in Vietnam now,” a senior Environment Ministry official said.
In contrast to the responses of the government and ruling bloc, opposition lawmakers voiced positive opinions on Koizumi’s remarks. “We’ll support him,” Democratic Party for the People leader Yuichiro Tamaki said.