Japan's 'clean coal' technologies are a costly gamble that will thwart net-zero ambition: report

(Eco Business, 14 Feb 2022) Unproven technologies such as carbon capture and ammonia re-firing are helping Japanese policymakers rebrand the fossil fuel as "clean". But they have limited carbon-cutting potential and undermine Japan's decarbonisation targets, a report from TransitionZero cautions.

Technology promoted by Japanese policymakers as a clean way to burn coal enables the country to avoid a rapid transition away from the fossil fuel and undermines its national climate action policies, according to a new report by an environmental group.

Japan has been aggressively pushing technologies such as coal gasification and carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) in a bid to hit its 2050 carbon-neutral target. During COP26 climate talks in November, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida outlined Japan’s plans to reconcile the country’s use of coal with its net-zero pledge. These technologies have been labelled “clean” because they lower the emissions of burning coal, which is the single biggest contributor to man-made climate change.

The report, titled Coal-de-sac: Advanced Coal in Japan by London-based climate analytics group TransitionZero, found that the carbon intensity of Japan’s clean coal technologies is five times higher than what is required for the country to be on track to achieve its 2050 net-zero target.

CCUS, which captures and stores carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere, has the most emissions-reducing potential, but Japan has limited suitable CCUS sites, such as retired gas fields, said Jacqueline Tao, an analyst at TransitionZero. Japan’s CCUS storage potential will run out in a decade, she said, adding that carbon capture technology faces “operational and financing issues.”

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Eco Business, 14 Feb 2022: Japan's 'clean coal' technologies are a costly gamble that will thwart net-zero ambition: report