As Japan sanctions Russian coal, it is high time to kick the habit altogether

(Climate Home News, 11 Apr 2022) In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japan has reluctantly decided to join the other G7 countries in gradually banning imports of Russian coal.

Could this signal a break with Tokyo’s coal-friendly policies? That seems unlikely given its track record of using loopholes and greenwashing to circumvent global efforts to end coal. While other wealthy countries have slowly been transitioning away from coal, Japan has continued its support for coal power at home and abroad.

Japan is the second largest funder of coal power projects in other countries, after China. It justifies this funding by deceptively framing it as a contribution to climate change mitigation, arguing that Japanese coal technology is less polluting than conventional coal technology. The government therefore supports the export of Japanese “world-leading” coal power plants to developing countries. This policy is misleadingly described as “in line with the Paris Agreement and aimed at leading global decarbonization efforts”. 

Strong international pushback has led to some positive developments. The Japan Bank for International Cooperation announced in 2020 that it “will no longer accept loan applications for coal-fired power generation projects” and some Japanese-funded projects have been cancelled. Nonetheless, a recent study found that the world’s three biggest lenders to the coal industry were all Japanese banks. 

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Climate Home News, 11 Apr 2022: As Japan sanctions Russian coal, it is high time to kick the habit altogether