Japan Minister Endorses Two Coal-Power Plants North of Tokyo

  • Two coal-powered plants would be located in Ibaraki prefectur
  • Environmentals criticize decision and timing during G7 meeting

Japan’s environment minister, Tamayo Marukawa, endorsed two new coal-fired power projects near Tokyo, while urging the power producers that will operate the plants to ensure they put measures in place to cut emissions from the facilities.

The endorsement is a reversal of the stance adopted by the environment minister in November when she said she wouldn’t support two other coal projects because a voluntary framework set up by the power industry to cut greenhouse gas emissions wasn’t sufficient.

In February, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which has the final authority to approve individual coal power projects, said it will require power producers to boost the efficiency of their plants after power companies set up a council to review efforts to cut emissions.

The projects endorsed by Marukawa on Friday include a 650-megawatt project planned by Chubu Electric Power Co. and Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings and a 645-megawatt unit proposed by Electric Power Development Co. and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. Both coal-fired power plants will be located in Ibaraki prefecture, which lies roughly 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Tokyo.

Marukawa’s endorsement carried with caveats, with the minister saying an increasing ratio of power from coal is a source of concern as it will obstruct Japan’s efforts to tackle climate change, according to statements from the environment ministry describing Marukawa’s letters to the trade minister, Motoo Hayashi.

Environmental groups criticized Marukawa’s stance, saying that it falls short of efforts to globally address the climate challenge. A meeting of the Group of Seven industrial nations in western Japan wrapped up Friday with a declaration including a section on climate change.

“It is outrageous that the minister issues such statements” while G7 leaders agreed to speed up efforts to decarbonize the global economy, Kimiko Hirata of the Kiko Network, a Kyoto-based environmental group, said by phone. “By continuing to offer such a response to the coal issue, I wonder how Japan sees itself in the eyes of the world?”

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