The UN 2019 Climate Action Summit was held on September 23. At this summit, a Swedish sixteen-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg’s speech was highlighted. In her angry speech, she condemned the world leaders for their insufficient policies to cope with climate change focusing on global warming, and appealed to them for drastic improvements in their policies. I have always been keenly interested in the youth environmental activities in the world for long years with deep respect. The coal-fired power generation, which emits the largest ratio of greenhouse gas among fossil fuels, was discussed in particular, but no specific solution was proposed.
Regarding the coal-fired power generation: My remarks on ‘discharging the treated water into the Pacific Ocean’ have been widely reported by the mass media since my resignation as Minister of the Environment on September 11, and resulted in a big debate among many people and mass media. I’m glad my remarks were widely covered by the media because it helped increase awareness and generate interest among people about this issue. Meanwhile, the Ministry of the Environment has been advocating that the reduction/abolition of the coal-fired power generation is one of the most important issues in the government’s environmental policies. The Ministry has consistently appealed this advocacy to the public. Some private companies decided to suspend their plans to use the coal-fired power generation, but in general terms, their minimal volume was not sufficient to meet the requirements of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. I had a meeting in my office with the staff of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. (TEPCO), which holds the largest scale of coal-fired power plants, and persuaded them to drastically reduce the coal-fired power generation. Subsequently, I sent my official letter as Minister of the Environment addressed to President of TEPCO expressing the same those requests. Probably it was a rare move, and I received protests from other ministry as well as from the Prime Minister’s Office. In spite of these protests, I took the action. It was because I believed that the Minister of the Environment was ultimately responsible for all environmental issues, and since I was in that position at that time, I thought I should not avoid any responsibility that rested with the Minister.
This morning I watched Greta Thunberg’s speech on TV, criticizing the world leaders tearfully and angrily. I sympathized with her. As she appealed to the public via TV, those issues of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions caused by the coal-fired power generation have to be urgently resolved. President Trump, who is said to be rather indifferent to the global environmental issues, briefly stopped by the general assembly of the UN 2019 Climate Action Summit. According to news reports, Greta stared at the President when the two crossed paths.