On July 2, the Japanese government announced to suspend or close 100 of the 114 old and inefficient coal-fired power plants by 2030, primarily because the ratio of coal-fired power generation’s emission of CO2 is highest among fossil fuels. In other words, coal is the worst fossil fuel in terms of preventing global warming. The government’s basic plan is to reduce its dependence on coal to 26% by 2030 in accordance with the Paris Agreement which was adopted at COP21 held in Paris in 2015.
The coal-fired power generation has several merits economically and managerially when compared with other renewable energy resources such as solar power generation which is easily affected by weather, or the existing crude oil whose price often fluctuates. However, internationally, from the viewpoint of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN assembly in 2015, the coal-fired power generation will have to be ultimately abolished. Financial institutions’ loans and investments to the so-called ESG projects—projects for Environment, Society, and Governance—have tended to decrease, and affected the coal-fired power generation projects. These socio-economic phenomena are deemed to have made the Japanese government decide to suspend or close the said 100 coal-fired power plants by 2030. The Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)’s joint decision is worthy of praise, and I highly appreciate their efforts.
When I served as Minister of the Environment, this issue of how to deal with the coal-fired power generation plants was one of the most difficult projects which I supervised. I once requested the president of TEPCO not to build a new coal-fired power plant in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa. My action at that time might have affected the two ministries’ joint decision. (TEPCO stands for Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Incorporated).