Japan’s Thriving Coal Industry Could Doom Global Warming Fight


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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Environmentalists are lamenting Japan’s decision to renounce its opposition to building new coal-fired power plants, claiming the reversal on coal power might hamper the country’s ability to cut carbon emissions.

The Japanese environment ministry’s reversal effectively drops Japan down on the list of industrialized countries committing to the Paris agreement.

The burning of fossil fuels, among other power sources, account for 40 percent of the country’s greenhouse gases.

As Japan readies itself in April to open its power markets, coal companies are clamoring to build 43 plants, a 50 percent increase from 2015.

“Global opinion is increasingly shifting away from coal but Japan’s environmental ministry is switching sides to approve new coal power plants. This runs counter to the global action,” Kimiko Hirata, the international director of environmental lobby group Kiko Network, told reporters.

Japan’s decision to increase coal power comes as other countries, notably China, have begun ratcheting down their coal power plants, due in large part to gluts in their respective coal markets.

China, for its part, announced intent to cut nearly 1,000 coal mines Monday, indicating the country aims to dramatically decrease its coal power in hopes of relieving a glut in the coal markets.

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) said its decision to shut down the mines is part of a plan to slash 500 million tons of surplus coal production from its market.

The country also plans on shuttering more than 5,600 of its 10,760 coal mines under a new policy essentially keeping coal production under 90,000 tons, the China National Coal Association has estimated.

As part of the pan, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans on reigning in control of the coal sector, including placing more restrictions on newly built coal power plants to curb their carbon output.

“We will also monitor and check annually on progress. If we find the power industry cannot reach its goal, we will consider new measures,” Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa said earlier this month during a confab with Japan’s industry minister Motoo Hayash.

Japan has relied increasingly on coal power ever since its nuclear industry was debilitated following the Fukushima disaster in 2011, which led to the shutdown of several of the country’s largest nuclear facilities.

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