G7 urges Japan to accelerate clean energy transition at home and abroad

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Activists described the G7 statement as a breakthrough, saying it would limit Japanese support for gas expansion in Asia and around the world

Japan has agreed to stop funding fossil fuel projects internationally by the end of 2022 and clean up its electricity system by 2035, under pressure from the rest of the G7.

After a three-day meeting in Berlin, G7 energy and environment ministers released a statement on Friday committing to these goals and supporting “an accelerated and unrelenting phase-out of coal on a global scale”.

This marked the biggest policy shift for Japan’s reliance on fossil fuels. An annotated draft seen by Climate Home News showed that Japan tried to remove the two pledges from the communiqué, but European countries and Canada defended them.

“There is no hesitation in our commitment to 1.5°C…the need to act on decarbonisation has been reaffirmed at the G7,” Japanese Environment Minister Toshitaka Ooka said during a meeting. ‘a press conference.

Japan will take over the G7 presidency next year. Ooka said energy issues would be “the most critical challenge”.

Analysts and activists described the statement as a game changer for global decarbonization efforts.

“The end of COAL AND GAS POWER is now in sight”, Ember’s Dave Jones tweeted.

Oil price activist Laurie Van Der Burg said Japan’s endorsement of the communiqué was “an important breakthrough” as the country has “very aggressively supported the expansion of gas in Asia but also globally “.

Japan is one of the world’s leading financiers of fossil fuels and was the only G7 country not to commit at last year’s Cop26 summit to halt the flow. Between 2018 and 2020, Japan provided $10.9 billion a year for fossil fuel projects in other countries. This is significantly more than the funding provided by the United States or the European members of the G7 and slightly less than Canada.

It was also the only country without a plan to phase out fossil fuels from its electricity system by 2035. By 2030, it aims to achieve 59% of its electricity from renewable and nuclear sources. In 2020, 70% of Japan’s electricity is generated from gas and coalof which only 20% comes from renewable energies.

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Jones describe a 2035 goal as a “challenge” but “completely achievable” for Japan. “The obvious starting point is to develop rooftop solar and wind power, which could help Japan create a much more secure and sustainable energy system by 2035,” he said.

“Replacing fossil fuels with clean energy at the required speed will be a challenge for Japan,” said Hanna Hakko, senior analyst at E3G. “Further policy modeling and planning will be urgently needed. »

But activists were positive about the direction of travel. “The language of the statement is strong and goes beyond the Japanese government’s previous position,” Kimiko Hirata, international director of Kiko Network, a Japanese environmental NGO, told Climate Home News.

While Japan hasn’t committed to phasing out coal — its current energy plan calls for 19% of its electricity to come from coal by 2030 — Hirata said the 2035 decarbonization goal implies a coal phase-out. “It’s totally new for Japan,” Hirata said, calling for stronger language on phasing out coal at next month’s leaders’ summit.

“Ending international fossil fuel funding is also a big step,” Hirata said. “Japan subsidizes gas exploration. Can they stop everything by 2022? It’s a big question mark. »

“Renewed Japanese ambition and the new Australian government should help accelerate Asia’s electric transition and will surely force a rethink in Korea,” Jones told Climate Home News.

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