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Role of Ministry Environment questioned over coal plant approval

On February 8th, several media outlets reported that the Ministry of the Environment eased its opposition to plans for new coal-fired power plants. The Environment Ministry stated that they “can envision the power industry and the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) implementing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”. However, looking through an announcement of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC), released on the same day, there are no significant differences from their voluntary program and Commitment to a Low Carbon Society Plan that were released on July 17th, 2015. It is obvious that there is no guarantee that the reduction measures will be put into action. This begs the question: Has the Environment Minister decided to turn a blind eye?

Within the last two years, an unprecedented number of plans for new coal-fired power plants have been announced and going though the EIA process. Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa opposed five of these projects saying that she“couldn’t endorse them”.
After attending COP21 in Paris and witnessing the moment the Paris Agreement was announced, she should have felt the global trend towards decarbodization. It is unacceptable for the Minister of Environment to turn back on her policy and approve the construction of new coal plants.

Kiko Network has immediately issued a press release titled “Protest against the Minister of the Environment’s approval of the building of new coal-fired power plants – Stick to the route towards decarbonization and a sustainable society as in the Paris Agreement-” on February 9th. In addition, WWF Japan issued an opposing statement that they “object to the trend of accepting the construction of new coal-fired plants (tentative translation)”. Other environmental NGOs have also opposed this decision by the Environment Ministry. This change in policy would be harshly criticized by the global society. Following the Paris Agreement, the Environment Ministry is supposed to implement harsher regulations to shut down coal plants one by one in addition to halting any future construction of new plants. However, the Ministry released a policy that approved the construction of new coal plants. This raises the question: what is the function of the Environment Ministry?

[Related Links]

Kiko Network, Press Release (English)
Protest against the Minister of the Environment’s approval of the building of new coal-fired power plants – Stick to the route towards decarbonization and a sustainable society as in the Paris Agreement –

WWF Japan, Statement (Japanese)
Objection to movement toward acceptance of new coal-fired plant construction (tentative translation)

[Media Coverage]

Nikkei Asian Review: In about-face, environment ministry to OK coal plants

Japan Times: Japan to get more coal-fired power plants thanks to Environment Ministry policy reversal