Official: Japan hopes to lead Asia’s push to zero emissions

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TOKYO (AP) — Japan will phase out coal-fired power plants over the next two decades while developing new technologies to reduce, capture and use carbon, Environment Minister Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi said Tuesday.

Yamaguchi said in an interview with The Associated Press that Japan hopes to lead a zero emissions campaign in Asia and is preparing to introduce a carbon tax to meet its commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, creating stronger incentives. to reduce emissions.

“We can’t give details on what we will do with coal-fired power plants by 2030, but we will do our best to minimize emissions,” Yamaguchi said.

Current efforts in Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, are focused on developing methods to burn ammonia in conventional coal-fired power plants and phasing out the use of coal, possibly in the 2040s.

Environmental groups and critics are urging Japan to focus more on promoting renewable energy, saying current policies will only prolong the use of coal and hinder the reduction of carbon emissions.

Critics have also accused Japan of promoting coal-fired power plants in the past as part of its development aid for many Asian countries.

Yamaguchi said Japan would accelerate the development of carbon capture, utilization and storage, or CCUS, technology as part of its support for other Asian countries.

Japan was seen as reluctant to commit to banning coal power as soon as many European countries. At the United Nations COP-26 climate summit held in Glasgow, Scotland, late last year, he was awarded the Fossil of the Day award by an environmental organization for his stance.

Japan was more dependent on nuclear power before the triple disaster of 2011, namely the earthquake, the tsunami and the meltdowns of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which led it to idle many reactors. Some have been restarted after safety upgrades, but the country is still using more gas and coal than before to fuel its economy.

Energy experts and critics say Japan currently has overambitious targets for nuclear power to supply 20-22% of its energy mix by 2030. By then, the country has promised to reduce its emissions to 46% of 2013 levels.

Japan emitted about 1.15 billion tons of greenhouse gases last year, down 5.1% from the previous year and 18.4% below the 2013 level. according to the latest government data.

At the Glasgow Summit, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to support the reduction of carbon emissions by promoting the use of ammonia, hydrogen and other innovative decarbonisation technologies. He did not say when Japan will end coal-fired power generation.

As Japan is seen as dragging its feet in shifting away from coal, Yamaguchi said Tokyo should be credited for contributing to a market-based mechanisms agreement — an agreement that backs the transfer of emissions reductions between countries. countries while encouraging companies to invest in the climate. friendly solutions.

Yamaguchi said a carbon tax would help Japan contribute to other countries’ emissions reduction efforts as part of a “zero emissions community in Asia” vision announced by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday.

Yamaguchi did not provide any specific details on the carbon tax or when it might be enacted. Carbon pricing measures being considered include the introduction of carbon taxes for businesses and households, as well as emissions trading. The government has not announced a decision on the matter.

Kishida launched a government-commissioned “clean energy strategy” group of experts and officials on Tuesday, asking its members to study carbon pricing and come up with a plan by summer.

The environment minister, a former diplomat who earned a doctorate in politics from Johns Hopkins University, said he plans to launch a framework of talks with 17 other countries on a joint carbon credit mechanism to possibly reduce emissions to zero, starting with the phase-out of coal. -thermal power stations.

Ideally, the forum would include all Asia-Pacific countries, Yamaguchi said.

“Environmental issues know no borders,” he said.

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