Japan needs to overcome what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres labeled a “coal addiction,” and the issue is causing mixed feelings among its officials attending climate change talks in Madrid this week.
The COP25 meeting in Spain might boost awareness among the Japanese public of the need to reduce dependency on coal, Japanese Minister of the Environment Shinjiro Koizumi told reporters on Wednesday.
“In Japan, coal power is not seen as problematic as the international community sees it,” Koizumi said in Japan’s first address to the press at the gathering in years. “There is a plan to build coal-fired power plants in Japan, but with that fact in mind, I have some complex feelings about attending COP25.”
Japan has come under fire for its continued commitment to coal, which makes up about one-third of its electricity generation.
The country is also the only economy in the G7 that is still building new coal plants. It is also a major exporter of coal-plant technology.
The country boosted its reliance on coal-fired power in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster, which shuttered its fleet of nuclear reactors that accounted for a quarter of the nation’s electricity generation.
Japan currently gets about one-third of its power from coal amid public resistance to restarting the reactors.
The Asian nation has 46.5 gigawatts (GW) of existing coal capacity, according to BloombergNEF, and another 11GW planned.
A report from Carbon Tracker said that Japan would face US$71 billion in stranded assets should it pursue coal as a primary source of energy.
“We can’t make a declaration of phasing out of coal or fossil fuels right away,” Koizumi said. “We have to come up with more positive signals and I thought we could do that as the government of Japan, but until COP25, the coordination has not produced such a political signal.”
So far, 28 local governments — including Tokyo, Kyoto and Yokohama — have joined a global initiative to get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, Koizumi added.
“I believe that we have to go further,” he said. “I will report to the prime minister about what I have felt. I have a feeling we can take some positive action — please watch for that.”
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