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3 April, 2019

Japan’s Environment Ministry Releases New Policy Regulating Coal-fired Power Generation, Accelerating Global Warming Countermeasures

On March 28, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment (MOE) announced its intention to evaluate environmental impact statements more strictly during the construction of coal-fired power plants (which are particularly high sources of CO2 emissions) so as to more actively limit their construction.

The move represents part of the measures being implemented in the country’s electricity sector—the largest source of CO2 emissions—to expedite endeavors to control global warming, which is picking up pace.

While environmental impact assessments in Japan must take the opinions of the MOE into account, the responsibility for the final implementation of construction plans rests with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). The key to effectiveness is therefore whether all the relevant governmental bodies share the same policy priorities.

At his press conference on the 28th, MOE Minister Yoshiaki Harada said, “We will convey to companies [planning to build coal-fired plants] more directly than before that they should cancel those plans if there is no sufficient explanation.”

Currently, with operation at most nuclear power plants suspended and the use of coal-fired power generation increasing, among other factors, the level of CO2 concentrations has been climbing in Japan. On March 29, the meteorological bureau announced that the mean values of such concentrations in 2018 at three sites were the highest ever in its history of meteorological observations. Since investigations began in 1987, CO2 concentrations have risen steadily, most likely attributable to the increased consumption of fossil fuels as well as to reduced CO2 absorption as a result of deforestation.

A new international framework for GHG emission reductions will go into effect in 2020, replacing the Kyoto Protocol. Europe and other regions are now moving earnestly away coal, toward the realization of a non-carbon society. If nothing is done, global warming will reach serious levels, leading to mounting criticism against Japan, with its reliance on coal-fired power generation.

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