Keidanren, Japan’s biggest business lobby, is asking the government to cut regulations that make it harder to build new coal-fired power plants, media reported Thursday, sparking angry responses from green groups.
In a meeting with Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa this week, Keidanren vice chairman Yasushi Kimura said CO2 emissions and climate change should not be taken into consideration in environmental impact assessments of new coal plants, the Mainichi Shimbun reported.
Keidanren argued that environmental impact assessments are a tool for communication with local residents, while climate change is a global issue and hence is irrelevant.
The request from Keidanren came only two weeks after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sacked Yoshio Mochizuki, the former environment minister who protested the construction of several new coal plants because they would make it hard for Japan to meet its international carbon emission obligations.
Mochizuki was replaced by Marukawa, a 44-year old former TV anchor with no experience with energy and environment, but with a reputation of being fiercely loyal to Abe.
Keidanren’s proposal was criticised by green groups, branding it “unbelievable”.
“Climate change is a critical issue. It causes health problems and damages our lives. How can it be excluded from environmental impact assessments? It is outrageous,” Kimiko Hirata, international director at Kiko Network told Carbon Pulse.
“To avoid dangerous climate change, high-emission infrastructure needs to be strictly assessed and regulated,” she said.
The news comes just a day after UK think tank E3G placed Japan seventh of G7 nations’ efforts to phase out coal.
While other industrialised nations are trying to wean themselves off coal, Japan is planning 48 new coal-fired power plants and has 27GW of new coal capacity under development.
“Japan is isolated among its G7 peers as the sole country still looking to build new unabated coal plants, let alone retire existing plants. It is a negative force abroad through its financial support for unabated coal power plant construction,” wrote E3G’s Chris Littlecott.
Japan has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 26% below 2013 levels by 2030, limiting coal’s share of electricity generation in that year to 27%.
National media has reported that the government is considering limiting coal-fired generation to 50% of each utility’s total fossil fuel output to ensure there is no spike in coal use when the nation’s electricity market is liberalised next year, although a final decision has not been made.
By Stian Reklev – email@example.com