Japan has missed an opportunity to shift its energy production to renewable energy, even as the country struggles with the impacts of floods and landslides that killed at least 200 last week, and looks ahead to a future that promises more of the same.
A senior government spokesperson admitted last Thursday that the island nation “risks more severe weather and must find ways to alleviate disasters,” Reuters reports, while “intense heat and water shortages raised fear of disease among survivors of last week’s floods and landslides.” The rains in western Japan were the country’s worst in 36 years and hit communities “that have existed for decades on mountain slopes and flood plains largely untroubled by storms,” the news agency adds.
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“It’s an undeniable fact that this sort of disaster due to torrential, unprecedented rain is becoming more frequent in recent years,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told media. “We recognize that there’s a need to look into steps we can take to reduce the damage from disasters like this even a little bit.”
Reuters reports 200,000 households without water a week after the storms hit, with temperatures in the 31° to 34°C range, humidity high, emergency supplies limited, and “life in school gymnasiums and other evacuation centres, where families spread out on mats on the floors, [beginning] to take a toll.”
But none of those realities stopped Japan’s cabinet from adopting a new Strategic Energy Plan (SEP) July 3 that extends the country’s dependence on coal and nuclear generation for baseload power. That decision “fails to consider the dramatic changes currently occurring in global energy trends,” and “neglects the strong public desire for a major shift toward renewable energy and a move away from nuclear and coal,” the non-profit Kiko Network charges.
“Japan is rich in renewable resources, a fact that makes a fundamental revision of Japan’s energy policies entirely possible and is an opportunity to revitalize local communities. Such change is urgently necessary,” the network states. Even so, the new strategy “maintains an emphasis on nuclear and coal power. This policy rewards vested interests, as much of the national budget will be appropriated to these dated and conventional industries. This also means that Japan is not only abandoning opportunities to create a sustainable society, but also giving up international negotiating power and competitive advantage as an energy leader.”
Kiko says the review process leading up to the new policy was dominated by nuclear and coal interests and failed to factor in a petition with 53,403 signatures that urged a transition to a nuclear-free future.
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