Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi announced Tuesday that tighter restrictions could be placed in the coming months on Japanese exports of coal power to developing nations in an effort to deflect mounting international criticism over the nation’s energy policy.
“This is a significant decision that brings Japan one step closer to achieving carbon neutrality,” Koizumi said following a Cabinet meeting. “Japan’s export of coal-fired energy to developing countries is one of the more frequent criticisms it receives from the international community in regards to its use of coal power.”
Under its current energy policy, Japan decides whether to export coal-powered energy to a foreign nation based on four conditions: said nation has no other reasonable options for alternative energy sources, the request is made through official channels directly to the Japanese government, the foreign nation’s energy policy and climate change prevention measures are comprehensive, and coal-fired power satisfies the basic standards of Ultra Supercritical Coal, which refers to more modern plants with higher efficiency and often lower heat waste, pollution and carbon emissions.
During its meeting, the Cabinet agreed on a motion put forth by Koizumi to propose revisions to the conditions under which Japan exports coal powered energy to developing nations. The government is to create the proposals by June. Koizumi hopes they will be incorporated into the country’s next infrastructure export plan, the framework for which is to be announced in June and take full effect in December.
Efforts to tighten the restrictions are part of an ongoing effort to bring Japan in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement and reduce net carbon emissions to effectively zero to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels.
Environmental activists argued that the announcement is not enough.
“Environment Minister Koizumi says restricting the export of coal-fired power is a step forward for Japan, but I don’t see how this will solve the country’s addiction to coal,” said Takayoshi Yokoyama of 350 Japan, the local branch of a global environmental group. “We can’t afford to focus only on what’s happening abroad and thereby neglect the construction of new coal power plants in Japan.”
The next United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, will be held in November in Glasgow, Scotland. Member nations have been asked to put forward a plan to bring their country in line with the Paris deal and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Yet Japan’s infrastructure export policy is slated to be announced in December, while its overall energy policy is set to be decided some time next year, too late for COP26, Koizumi said Tuesday.
Japan has been on the receiving end of heavy criticism from the international community recently for its continued use of and investment in coal-fired power and oil.
At COP25, which was held in Spain in December, Japan became one of three countries to receive a satirical “Fossil of the Day” award from Climate Action Network, an international environmental group, for the country’s plans to continue using coal-fired power.
Days later, Japan’s three biggest commercial banks — Mizuho Financial Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group — were outed as the world’s biggest financiers of new coal power plants in a report by Germany-based nonprofit Urgewald, Dutch bank watchdog BankTrack and about 30 other nongovernmental organizations. The three Japanese banks have accounted for 32 percent of direct lending to coal power plant development companies since January 2017, the report said.