Japan is considering ending state support for building coal-fired power plants abroad in line with international efforts to curb global warming, sources said Monday. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga may announce the move at an April 22-23 virtual summit on climate change hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden.

The biggest single world source of carbon emissions (46%) is coal burning. Unless this figure is drastically cut back, all other “achievements” around the planet, however commendable, will simply be overwhelmed, argues columnist David Howell. Japan has been criticized for continuing to give state support to export coal-fired power plants in the form of loans.

In February, the industry ministry said Japan would step up efforts to support shifts by Asian countries away from coal and toward liquefied natural gas, which is less-polluting, though still a fossil fuel. This month, a project to create liquefied hydrogen from the dirtiest type of coal kicked off in Australia’s Victoria state, with the low-emission fuel to be shipped to Kobe.

Hydrogen produced from brown coal in Gippsland in Australian first | ABC NEWS (AUSTRALIA)
Hydrogen produced from brown coal in Gippsland in Australian first | ABC NEWS (AUSTRALIA)

The government appears to be aware that to have any chance of hitting its goal of making Japan carbon-neutral by 2050, Japanese firms will have to decarbonize the manufacturing processes behind the goods the country exports around the globe.

In a commentary, Mighty Earth’s Phelim Kine singles out Nippon Steel, which is shifting its focus to recycling the metal, as a hopeful outlier amid the industrial sector’s foot-dragging on this issue, in stark contrast to Toyota, which seems stuck in the past with its obsession with hybrids.

News from Japanese forays into the renewable energy sector, meanwhile, is mixed. On one hand, Panasonic has decided to exit its unprofitable solar cell business amid ever-increasing competition from Chinese makers. On the other, Toshiba is reportedly in talks with General Electric to jointly produce offshore wind power tech, as the Japanese firm pivots to renewable energy.