In Bonn, Germany, the fourth day of negotiations started with protesters chanting “Sekitan, Yamato, stop coal finance!” hitting on Japan, the world’s largest provider of coal finance.
Between 2007 and 2014, Japan’s export credit agencies provided $17 billion of public finance for coal projects around the world.
“Japan is already notorious for its position in coal finance. The data shows that Japan is the biggest contributor, and those exported coal power plants are not clean or efficient,” says Kimiko Hirata, International Director of Kiko Network.
Coal is the biggest source of man made carbon in the atmosphere. In order to ensure that global warming will be kept below 2 degrees celsius from pre-industrial levels, 80% of the world’s coal reserves should not be burned.
Talks of a long term goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 have been ongoing at the climate negotiations and is deemed as a crucial solution to the climate crisis.
However, Japan has argued that building coal power plants can help in climate finance contributions. Climate finance is meant to help poor countries reduce emissions or adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.
“There’s no way to claim it’s a climate solution. It’s time to shift away from coal,” Hirata added.
Many countries such as Ethiopia have committed to a shift from dirty energy to renewable energy. Ethiopia, a least developed country that only contributes 0.3% of global emissions and with 76% of its population with no access to electricity, has committed to 64% emissions reduction.
Japan, on the other hand, is the world’s fifth biggest emitter of carbon and has only committed to a 26% emissions reduction target.
Japan’s target is inadequate according to Climate Action Tracker.
“If all countries adopted this level of ambition, global warming would likely exceed 3-4 degrees celsius in the 21st century,” they said in their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) analysis. The INDC is a set of mitigation commitments and adaptation plans of all countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“Japan is getting failing grades for its climate action. Its continued investment of scarce public resources in overseas coal projects is a major reason it is viewed as a climate laggard,” Jake Shmidt, International Program Director of Natural Resources Defence Council, said.
Leaders including those in the US, France, and the UK have already made commitments to end or strictly limit coal finance. Most recently, China has also committed to taking steps to strictly control its public support for coal plants both locally and overseas.
“This funding needs to end if Japan wants to be a credible part of the Paris agreement,” Shmidt added.
Japan’s investment in the Philippines
Japan’s coal investment can also be seen in the Philippines. In 2014, Team Energy, a joint venture between Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) and Marubeni launched an expansion coal power plant project in Pagbilao, Quezon. The project is said to begin operations in November 2017 and will have a total power of 3,500MW.
This planned expansion has been met with protests by communities in the nearby area. There had been Church-led protests in the province, with activists demanding that the government withdraw its support for the plant expansion.
The Aquino administration has been aggressive in approving new coal power plants. At least 59 new coal power plants for construction have been approved in 2015.
Coal has been seen by the Philippine government as the solution to the growing energy needs of the country despite the fact that the Philippines is also considered as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.
Coal power plants have also been approved in the guise of “job generation” for poor families in the community.
Pressure and protests
In the Philippines, many communities continue to protest against the construction of new coal power plants in different parts of the country. Recently, the Philippines also submitted a 70% carbon mitigation in its INDC but without clear plans on how to achieve this mitigation given the number of coal power plants the government has approved.
The protesters at the conference called Japan’s actions as “an embarrassment to the people of Japan who want to end coal finance.” They vowed to continue putting pressure on the Japanese government until it agrees to meaningful and strict limits on coal finance.
This article was originally published in Rappler.