With Japan chairing this year’s G20 meetings and its prime minister, Shinzo Abe, trying to position himself as a climate leader, Canada has an opportunity to encourage the country to “power past coal”, Climate Action Network-Canada Executive Director Catherine Abreu writes in a National Observer opinion piece.
During last week’s Clean Energy Ministerial in Vancouver, “ministers, government representatives, and corporate leaders [applauded] efforts to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future. They’re talking about the need to attract private sector investment to help scale up clean energy,” Abreu writes.
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But G20 countries, including Canada, are lagging on their decade-old commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. And Japan “continues to spend billions of dollars subsidizing the coal industry each year, tipping the scales in favour of dirty and outdated energy” and taking its place as the only G7 country “still financing and building coal plants both domestically and overseas”.
That activity has added up to a $10-billion investment over the last several years, Abreu says. And now, “in a sign that business is carrying on as usual, the government-backed Japanese Bank for International Cooperation approved a $1.2-billion loan for the Van Phong 1 coal power plant in Vietnam just last month. And mere days ago, work began on the Saijo coal plant in Japan.”
After an advisory committee chaired by the president of Japan’s international aid agency called on the country to work toward eliminating its coal plants, Abreu says business leaders got to work, leading to a “much-weakened draft” containing “vague, uninspiring language on the future of Japanese coal”.Abreu called on Canada to combine its influence during the Clean Energy Ministerial and its leadership in the international Powering Past Coal Alliance to pull Japan in a different direction. After that, “we hope that Prime Minister Abe uses the international spotlight with the hosting of the G20 Summit next month to honour his words and, on the tenth anniversary of the G20 pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, that he will finally announce an end to Japan’s taxpayer-backed support for coal.”