Japan is one of the world’s largest coal power supporters. Although Japan signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, it is still promoting the export of coal power technology as a national economic growth strategy.
The support of coal by the Government of Japan is provided through government-affiliated financial institutions: the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), the Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI), and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Japan’s Inordinate Coal Support
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has stated, “By 2050 Japan will aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, that is, to realize a carbon-neutral, decarbonized society.” However, the reality is very different from the rhetoric. Japan has continued to spend public money in supporting overseas coal-fired power projects. Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, the Government of Japan has approved nine overseas coal-fired power projects with a total capacity of over 9GW through JBIC and NEXI.
In the E3G’s scorecard that ranks the seven developed countries (G7 countries) based on their coal-related policies, Japan has ranked bottom for five consecutive years.
“Clean Coal” Polluting the World
“Clean Coal” is a myth. The Government of Japan claims that its “Clean Coal” technology would contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions. However, even if an ultra-supercritical (USC) plant – power plants considered to have the highest generation efficiency – is built, a single power plant will still emit large amounts of CO2 as it operates for the following years. In other words, coal can be less dirty but never clean.
Furthermore, Japan’s double standards are frequently seen abroad. Even if Japan has a better option for a new coal project, the best available techniques (BAT) are not necessarily used for all projects. For example, the Van Phong 1 project planned in Vietnam, which violates the OECD standards and would emit five times as much particulate matter (PM), five times that SO2 and nine times the NOx as the average new coal-fired power station in Japan.
It is crucial to install various pollutant removal equipment when a coal power plant is built. The installation of these equipment is mandatory for domestic coal-fired power plants. However, when Japan finances coal-fired power plants overseas, approximately 50% of its projects do not have any of the necessary equipment to remove SO2 and PM, and approximately 80% of the projects do not have the appropriate level of PM removal apparatuses such as fiber filters or electrostatic precipitators.
This means Japan is exporting polluting technology to foreign countries under the name of “Clean Coal.”
More harm than good
The coal-fired power projects financed by Japanese public money have caused negative impacts, from water and air pollution to climate change, land grabbing, and intimidation of local people. Local resistance to many of these projects is understandably fierce. However, when local communities raise their concerns and opposition against the projects, they face a sometimes brutal response.
In Indonesia, seven farmers and fishermen were put in prison for between five and seven months for protesting the JBIC-funded Batang project.
In the JICA-funded Indramayu project, three farmers were put in prison for five to six months.
No Coal Japan calls on Japan to
- Stop public support of overseas coal related projects and
- Support sustainable energy that consider local communities and human rights
Japan should join the global movement of moving away from coal and stop the destruction of the environment and livelihoods of affected people, mitigate climate change, and shift toward truly “clean” renewable energy sources as soon as possible.