Why Japan Needs
to End Coal

While the global struggle against air pollution and climate change becomes more urgent, Japan’s continued support for coal-related business poses a major threat to the future of the planet and the people.

We need to work together to stop Japan from supporting coal as an energy source, and instead use its massive financial power for the global transition to renewable energy.

In October 2020, the Government of Japan announced a pledge to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in Japan to achieve net-zero by 2050. In the United States, the Biden administration, which is positive on environmental policies, has rejoined the Paris Agreement. There is growing interest in “decarbonization” around the world and the movement of “end coal (coal-exit)” has become a major swell. Nevertheless, Japanese public financial institutions such as JBIC, NEXI, and JICA are still involved in overseas coal-related projects (36 coal-fired power plants in total in 2019) and Japanese utilities keep constructing new coal-fired power plants in Japan. Japan should step toward the total abolition of coal-fired power generation immediately.

Japan has financially supported 17.3 billion USD to overseas coal-fired power plant projects since 2013. This amount is the second largest in the world. Since the Paris Agreement, Japanese public financial institutions have financed as much as 450 billion yen annually to coal-related businesses, and the amount of support for fossil fuels is not decreasing.

Scandals and abuse connected to new Japanese-funded coal plants

These power stations are not only unnecessary; they are causing harm to local communities, too, and increase economic risks. Continued investment in coal presents serious ESG risks. Some of the problems associated with Japanese-funded projects in recipient countries include:

Climate change

If we are to meet the Paris Agreement climate targets, there is no room for new coal power stations to be built anywhere. The world can’t afford more coal, which is the biggest source of carbon pollution.

Increased air pollution

In some parts of Asia, emissions from coal plants are the fastest growing source of PM 2.5 air pollution. These tiny particles enter our lungs, causing serious health problems, respiratory diseases, and premature deaths.

Land grabbing

People are not being fairly compensated for their land, and sometimes have their properties demolished without anywhere else to go.

Economic risks

Coal is becoming an increasingly risky investment given its increasing costs. Profitability is threatened by tightening policies and regulations, such as carbon pricing. While the cost of renewable energy drops every year, new coal plants lock developing countries into decades of high-priced power.

Extreme weather

More coal plants will accelerate climate change, making extreme weather events like typhoons and storms become more frequent and severe.

Ruined livelihoods

Some projects have negatively affected the livelihoods of local people, either through taking over productive land, or through air and water pollution affecting farming and fisheries.

Flawed assessments

Many projects go through a flawed environmental impact assessment process. This means the most damaging projects that don’t meet eligibility criteria are being approved, while corporations turn a profit.

How can we stop this?

Together we can help Japan to shift to clean, renewable energy both domestically and internationally. But to do this, we need to show Japanese politicians and industry leaders the tremendous economic, reputational, and political risks associated with their continued support for coal technology.

There is still
an opportunity to act.

Some of these projects have not yet approved by the government or local authorities. Some are yet to pass environmental assessments. Some more are under construction but still at an early stage. Others could become operational at any moment. This gives us a crucial window to take action and show Japan the world is watching.

Renewable energy technology is becoming cheaper every day, and in many parts of the world is cheaper than new coal, and even cheaper than running existing coal plants. Now is the time to invest in renewables not coal.