The Japanese government has reversed course on its support for coal power. Two key decisions — one on infrastructure exports and the other addressing domestic energy policy — have been heralded by Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi as “a turning point” for Japan. Maybe there is something to be said for public shaming after all.
While Japan prides itself on its “green outlook” and has tried to lead on international environmental policy, its track record in recent years has fallen woefully short of its ambitions. Part of the problem are the continuing aftershocks of the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. That horrific incident forced Japan to reconsider an energy strategy that was reliant on nuclear power and the country has struggled to make up for the shortfall.
Coal has figured prominently in that effort, with 140 coal-power plants accounting for just under a third (32 percent) of Japan’s total power generation in 2018. The government aims to decrease that figure to 26 percent by 2030. As troubling as Japan’s reliance on such a “dirty” energy source has been its readiness to export coal plants to other countries in the region as part of its overseas economic cooperation.