June 1, 2022

Japan increasingly isolated in the G7 Coal-Free world: The government must commit to phase-out coal by 2030 to meet 1.5℃ target

May 27,2022

350.org Japan

On May 27, in Berlin under Germany’s 2022 Presidency of the G7, Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers issued a communiqué

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine leading to global energy issues, setting out a wide range of actions to tackle the climate crisis was a top priority for this meeting. Although this agreement is still inadequate in comparison with the magnitude of responsibility of the G7 countries, it demonstrates their will to continue strengthening measures against climate change and their determination to achieve the 1.5°C target set in last year’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. However, while the other G7 countries have tried to achieve a political agreement on the elimination of coal power and fossil fuels, the Japanese government is putting up roadblocks and the countries fell short of promising an end to coal-fired power generation with a clear deadline, such as 2030. 

The communiqué includes the cessation of new official international support for not only coal, but fossil fuels in general, by the end of 2022. It did not agree on a deadline for the coal-fired power generation phase-out, committing only to “an accelerated global unabated coal phaseout”. Japan was reportedly the only country to oppose this coal phase-out schedule. Scientists have repeatedly pointed out that the OECD countries must phase-out coal power by 2030 in order to meet the Paris climate goals. The Japanese government’s attitude toward the negotiations by turning its back on science is a lost opportunity for the G7 to communicate its strong political will for a coal-free world.

The Japanese government intends to maintain the share of coal-fired power generation in domestic power generation at 19% in 2030. The Japanese government takes a position that coal-fired power generation using ammonia co-firing and carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) is not considered “unabated” and the government plans to develop, install and utilize such “innovative technologies” toward 2050. However, such technologies have not yet been put to practical use, are more costly than renewable energies, and have been criticized internationally as unreliable solutions. In addition, even if 20% of fossil fuel-derived ammonia is co-fired in coal-fired power generation, the CO2 reduction effect is only a few percent, making it ineligible for zero emissions. To implement 20% ammonia co-firing at all domestic coal-fired power plants  would require a volume of ammonia equivalent to the current global trade volume of  ammonia, making it not feasible.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent energy issues clarify that the continued dependency on overseas fossil fuels deepens national insecurity. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) also stated, “We cannot allow tackling climate change to become yet another victim of Russia’s aggression. The need for this clean energy investment surge is greater than ever today.” Energy conservation and a just transition to a 100% renewable energy society should be the top priority, not only to solve the climate crisis, but also to increase energy security, reduce air pollution, increase green jobs, and reduce medium- and long-term energy costs.

The Japanese government must reaffirm its commitment to the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement and immediately begin to strengthen the 2030 target by the end of this year as required by the Glasgow Climate Pact and to create a roadmap for a coal phase-out by 2030. To this end, we must shift the massive flow of money being invested in the fossil fuel industry toward energy conservation and renewable energy. We must not allow the Japanese government to prevent G7 from expressing its political will for a coal-free and fossil-free world in the G7 summit scheduled for next month.

Eri Watanabe, Senior Campaigner of 350.org Japan, said: 

We urge the Japanese government to become a world leader in the drive toward a decarbonized society, rather than blocking an international agreement on decarbonization.

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Masayoshi Iyoda