The country has been criticised for supporting the construction of coal-fired power stations in Indonesia, Vietnam and elsewhere and for developing new plants in Japan.
“This is a significant decision that brings Japan one step closer to achieving carbon neutrality,” said Koizumi, who was appointed environment minister last September. “Japan’s export of coal-fired energy to developing countries is one of the more frequent criticisms it receives from the international community in regards to its use of coal power.
“The international community sees Japan as not moving an inch on this, so whether we take action or not will mean a lot,” Koizumi told the media.
He said the environment ministry had agreed to the policy with the finance and industry ministries.
Japan says it currently only backs coal-powered plants in countries without alternative energy sources. Japan claims to only provide highly efficient coal-powered technology.
The policy is due to be finalised by June and take effect in December.
Japan is trying to comply with its commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement and reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
“Japan used to be an advanced country in environmental strategy, but it’s no longer seen that way,” Koizumi added. “I want to help revive the image even by a little bit.”
Activists say the government should be going further.
“Environment Minister Koizumi says restricting the export of coal-fired power is a step forward for Japan, but I don’t see how this will solve the country’s addiction to coal,” said Takayoshi Yokoyama of the 350 Japan green group. “We can’t afford to focus only on what’s happening abroad and thereby neglect the construction of new coal power plants in Japan.”
Tokyo’s overall energy policy is due to be decided during 2021, Koizumi said.
The country has been criticised for its continued use of coal power and oil.
At the UN’s COP25 summit in Madrid in December, Japan was one of three countries to receive an unwanted “Fossil of the Day” award from the Climate Action Network because of its continued support for coal.
Japan’s three largest commercial banks, Mizuho, Mitsubishi UFJ and Sumitomo Mitsui, were labelled as the world’s largest financiers of new coal power stations by Germany’s Urgewald NGO, the Dutch bank monitoring organisation BankTrack and about 30 other bodies. The study claimed the three banks contributed approximately 32 per cent of direct lending to coal power station development firms since January 2017.
Japan is increasingly being asked about coal pollution. Picture credit: Pexels