A step in the right direction on coal?

On February 25th, Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi announced that the government (not just the Ministry of the Environment but the entire government) agreed to “review” the current policy of foreign assistance for coal-fired power plants. It should be noted that this is just an announcement of starting a “review” and thus it does not contain any changes to the existing policy yet, though the Minister mentioned its direction of “tightening” of the conditions for providing finance for coal-fired power plants.

News Articles

The current government’s position and conditions are expressed in the 5th Strategic Energy Plan as follows:

“In order to lead global decarburization taking into account the Paris Agreement, GOJ proposes to the partner country all options that contribute to CO2 emissions reduction, including renewable energy and hydrogen, etc., based on the needs of the partner country, to actively promote “low-carbon infrastructure exports.” In this process, in the case that there is a request from a partner country for Japan’s high efficiency coal thermal power generation then only for those countries that are forced to choose coal as an energy source from the perspectives of energy security and economic viability GOJ supports the introduction of power generation equipment that is in principle at or above ultra-supercritical pressure (USC), the global state-of-the-art, taking into account OECD rules and in a form that is consistent with the energy policy and climate change measures of the partner country.” (p. 24)

The four red parts are called “four conditions.”  The review is intended to revisit them.

The result of review and discussion will be reflected in the government’s Export Strategy for Infrastructure Systems, whose outline is expected to be adopted in June.

The Export Strategy is something that covers the entire fields of infrastructure systems and, in fact, coal-fired power plants are just a tiny part of it.  The Strategy has been revised every June since the first version adopted by the Management Council for Infrastructure Strategy under the Cabinet Secretariat in 2013.   Its goal is that Japanese companies should receive orders for infrastructure projects with a total value of approximately 30 trillion yen in 2020.  Hence this year is one milestone.

At this point, it is uncertain whether the review could actually result in any meaningful change of the Japanese government’s policy to promote coal-fired power plants overseas.

A worrying sign

When the world is gearing up for implementing the Paris Agreement adopted at COP21, Japan started backsliding.

The Ministry of Environment announced that it would approve construction of coal-fired power plants on the condition that the power industry sets its voluntary action plan and reports the implementation of the plan, which is supposed to be consistent with Japanese INDC.

During the last few years, MoE played a role of stopping coal-fired power plants through the environmental impact assessment processes.  It wasn’t an ideal measure but it was the only available weapon for MoE.

However, in the face of mounting pressure from industry (which complains about the uncertainty related to coal-fired power plants) and Prime Minister office’s general support for coal-fired power plants, MoE seems to have shifted its position.

This is a quite worrying sign, because, according the survey conducted by some civil society organization such as Kiko Network, the number of planned coal-fired power plants is 47 (total capacity is 22.5 Gw), many of them are expected to come into operation around 2020.

This means lots of high carbon assets in Japan even during the last half of this century, which is totally inconsistent with what the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal hints for countries like Japan.

The government doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo.

 

Japan’s INDC was officially submitted to UNFCCC

Now the Japanese INDC is on UNFCCC’s website.

Not much has changed since it was proposed for public commenting.  Hence the assessment below still stands.

It should be noted that the “energy mix” numbers below are not in the INDC per se.  It was taken from the energy mix, which was also adopted by the government a day before the INDC submission.
The Mitigation Target
  • 26% reduction below 2013 by 2030 (1042 MtCO2eq).  **Here all years are Japanese fiscal year (April to March).
  • For the base year, 2013 will be used mainly but 2005 will also be included.  For 2005 base year, the target becomes 25.4% below 2005 by 2030.
  • The “GHGs” cover 6 Kyoto greenhouse gases and NF3.
  • The target does include LULUCF (forest management, agricultural soil sinks etc).  It contribute to 2.6% reduction or 37 Mt-CO2eq reduction. They say they will take the same approach in Kyoto to account it, which means (in Japan’s case) gross-net approach.
  • It is vague on whether it includes its bilateral offsetting scheme (“Joint Crediting Mechanism”) or not.  The INDC says JCM is not included as part of the basis for calculating the 26% reduction target but the government will “appropriately account” emission reduction acquired by Japan through the mechanism.  The INDC also states that accumulative 50-100 Mt-CO2eq is expected from JCM but it was clarified during the governmental committee meeting that the number is just an estimate, not a commitment.
The “Energy Mix” behind the target
  • Electricity in 2030
    • RE: 22-24%
    • Nuclear: 20-22%
    • Coal: 26%
    • LNG: 27%
    • Oil: 3%
    • Of RE:
      • PV: 7%
      • Wind: 1.7%
      • Geothermal: 1.0-1.1%
      • Hydro: 8.8-9.2%
      • Biomass: 3.7-4.6%
  • Primary Energy Supply including electricity, heat and fuels
    • RE: 13-14%
    • Nuclear: 10-11%
    • Natural gas: 18%
    • Coal: 25%
    • Oil: 30% + LPG 3%
  • Energy consumption / Energy Efficiency
    • Electricity demand: 966.6TWh (2013) ==> 980.8TWh (2030)
      •  17% reduction from baseline scenario.
    • Finally Energy Consumption: 361 million kl Crude Oil Equivalent (2013) ==> 326 million kl COE (2030)
      • It is explained that this mean 35% improvement of efficiency between 2012 and 2030.
    • Primary Energy Supply will be 489 million kl COE.
Issues and problems
  • Low ambition in general:  The above target is equal to 18% reduction below 1990 by 2030, which is not enough.  CAN-Japan has been calling for 40-50% below 1990 by 2030.
  • The base year disguise: the reason why 2013 was chosen as a base year is to make the target look better compared to EU and US.  It looks better than when it is compared with 2005 as a base year.
  • Not consistent with its long-term target: Japan has a long-term target adopted by the Cabinet in 2012.  It aims at 80% reduction by 2050 (without specifying a base year). Assuming 2005 as a base year, the liner reduction from the current 2020 target (3.8% below 2005) to 2050 indicates that the target should be 29% reduction at the point of 2030.
  • Low ambition in RE: renewable targets are extremely low, especially for wind and PV. They are even lower than what respective industry groups are aiming at.
  • Uncontrolled coal: 26% in electricity generation in 2030 basically means Japan will keep the share of coal as it is now.
  • Unrealistic nuclear: 20-22% nuclear actually means either extending operation period of nuclear power plants from the current 40 years to 60 years or building new ones.  If you assume only 40-year lifetime for nuclear power plants, many of the existing nuclear power plants will be phased out eventually and it should be less than 15% by 2030.
  • Vague explanation for fairness and ambition:  the explanation around fairness and ambition is vague and it largely relies on high marginal abatement costs, transparency of sectoral breakdowns, efficiency of industry sectors.
  • Too much focus on electricity: the discussion was centered around electricity mix too much and there was not much of discussion on heat/fuels.
  • Other areas (adaptation and finance) are not addressed at all.

Japanese draft INDC proposal was presented

Today (April 30th), a draft proposal for Japanese INDC was presented in the joint advisory committee under the Ministry of Environment (MoE) and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)..   Apart from the leaks which you might have seen in media, this was the first time for the draft proposal to be presented officially.
I summarized the content below for your information.
The Mitigation Target
  • 26% reduction below 2013 by 2030 (1042 MtCO2eq).  **Here all years are Japanese fiscal year (April to March).
  • For the base year, 2013 will be used mainly but 2005 will also be included.  For 2005 base year, the target becomes 25.4% below 2005 by 2030.
  • The “GHGs” cover 6 Kyoto greenhouse gases and NF3.
  • The target does include LULUCF (forest management, agricultural soil sinks etc).  It contribute to 2.6% reduction or 37 Mt-CO2eq reduction.
  • It is vague on whether it includes its bilateral offsetting scheme (“Joint Crediting Mechanism”) or not.  The proposal says JCM is not included as part of the basis for calculating the 26% reduction target but the government will “appropriately account” emission reduction acquired by Japan through the mechanism.  The proposal also states that accumulatively 50-100 Mt-CO2eq is expected from JCM but it was clarified during the committee meeting that the number is just an estimate, not a commitment.
The “Energy Mix” behind the target
  • Electricity in 2030
    • RE: 22-24%
    • Nuclear: 20-22%
    • Coal: 26%
    • LNG: 27%
    • Oil: 3%
    • Of RE:
      • PV: 7%
      • Wind: 1.7%
      • Geothermal: 1.0-1.1%
      • Hydro: 8.8-9.2%
      • Biomass: 3.7-4.6%
  • Primary Energy Supply including electricity, heat and fuels
    • RE: 13-14%
    • Nuclear: 10-11%
    • Natural gas: 18%
    • Coal: 25%
    • Oil: 32%
  • Energy consumption / Energy Efficiency
    • Electricity demand: 966.6TWh (2013) ==> 980.8TWh (2030)
      • This reduction of electricity is 17% reduction from baseline
    • Finally Energy Consumption: 361 million Crude Oil Equivalent (2013) ==> 326 million COE (2030)
      • It is explained that this mean 35% improvement of efficiency between 2012 and 2030.
    • Primary Energy Supply will be 489 million COE.
Issues and problems
  • Low ambition in general:  The above target is equal to18% reduction below 1990 by 2030, which is not enough.  CAN-Japan has been calling for 40-50% below 1990 by 2030.
  • The base year disguise: the reason why 2013 was chosen as a base year is to make the target look better compared to EU and US.  It looks better than when it is compared with 2005 as a base year.
  • Not consistent with its long-term target: Japan has a long-term target adopted by the Cabinet in 2012.  It aims at 80% reduction by 2050 (without specifying a base year). Assuming 2005 as a base year, the liner reduction from the current 2020 target (3.8% below 2005) to 2050 indicates that the target should be 29% reduction at the point of 2030.
  • Low ambition in RE: renewable targets are extremely low, especially for wind and PV.
  • Uncontrolled coal: 26% in electricity generation in 2030 basically means Japan will keep the share of coal as it is now.
  • Unrealistic nuclear: 20-22% nuclear actually means either extending operation period of nuclear power plants from the current 40 years to 60 years or building new ones.  If you assume only 40-year lifetime for nuclear power plants, many of the existing nuclear power plants will be phased out automatically and it should be less than 15% by 2030.
  • No explanation for fairness and ambition (yet):  the governmental officials said they would prepare explanation for “fair and ambitious” but it does not include any explanation so far.
  • Too much focus on electricity: the discussion was centered around electricity mix too much and there was not much of discussion on heat/fuels.
  • Other areas (adaptation and finance) are not addressed at all.
Process Ahead
  • Today’s proposal is not the final proposal but is the first draft.  There will be some more discussion until the proposal is officially adopted by the Cabinet.  However, MoE and METI seemed in agreement to push this INDC through and it is not likely to get changed hugely.

Cherry Blossom, Japanese and Climate Change

Right after the IPCC AR5 WGII report was released , Tokyo, Yokohama and its surrounding areas went into the best season of cherry blossoms. I wonder those who came to Yokohama for the IPCC meeting had a chance to see them. I feel sorry if they missed them…

Cherry blossom 01 Cherry blossom 02

Right now, people in Tokyo are celebrating the cherry blossom at their best. The blossoms came suddenly this year. People are getting the fidgets during work time because they are worried about whether the best condition holds until the weekend.

Some have already started enjoying Hanami party. In literal translation, Hanami means “watching flowers” but it usually means a kind of party where you get together with your friends or co-workers under cherry trees and have drinks and foods while enjoying the blossoms.

Because Japanese people love cherry blossom so much, records of the cherry blossoms have been kept well. Also, the main factor for cherry blossom is known to be the temperature, which makes the cherry blossom a good indicator of tracking the effect of climate change.

According to Japan Meteorological Agency’s report, the timing of cherry blossom has become earlier at the pace of 0.9 day per decade since 1953. The latest version of the report is 2012 in Japanese but the 2011 version is available in English here.

Trend of Timing of Cherry BlossomsOne might wonder why it is so important. After all, it does not mean you cannot see the cherry blossom; it just means it is going to be a bit early.

This is where Japanese custom/culture comes in. In Japan, most of the schools and workplaces start their (fiscal) year from April and end in March. Because of this, April is a season where new lives begin and the cherry blossoms are considered a symbol of new lives. However, if the timing shifted toward earlier, then it suddenly changes its meaning. Now it is not very uncommon to see the cherry blossom in the season of graduation ceremony, i.e. end of one stage of lives. This could completely change the meaning that our culture gives to the cherry blossom.

You might still think that is not a big deal. After all, it is not as harsh as other examples of climate change, e.g. extreme weather events or sea-level rise.  I think that’s a fair point.
What scares me, though, is that this is a typical,example of climate change’s impacts going beyond physical, tangible effects. It could change intangibles too. Here, it is the meaning of the cherry blossom that people give in our culture. To me, this is a scary example of complex climate change impacts.

What bothers me further is that people, including, or, especially, me, are getting more and more detached from nature and are becoming insensitive to those signs that we could have gotten much earlier. On the cherry blossoms, yes, even I feel the change. But we are losing the touch of nature and becoming poor at feeling how seriously it is changing. This could slow us down in terms of actions that we must take. This may not be the case for those who still work close by nature but those who live and work in urban areas, it may be a big problem, because, as the IPCC report shows, we don’t have much time left.

Kyoto Anniversary

Today marks the 8th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol’s entry into force.

“8th” isn’t exactly a round number but this year happens to be the transition period from the first commitment period (2008-2012) to the second (2013-2020).

Hence I thought today deserves a short remark.

As the name of Kyoto suggests, it was adopted in my country’s old capital in 1997. In fact, the Protocol was the reason why I stepped into this field. I was a student living in Kyoto and very complicated nature of the problem made me interested in the issue of climate change. So, Kyoto was at least effective to make one freshman college student serious about the issue and make him choose his career for that.

After 8 years, the world is on track to 4 degree or 6 degree world. We are nowhere near securing a climate safe future. You could say Kyoto wasn’t sufficient by pointing out this fact. However, it is also crystal clear that the world would have been in the worse place without Kyoto.

Although one of the largest contribution made by Kyoto was setting legally binding emission reduction targets for developed countries, I believe the effect wasn’t just that. It sets out the basic elements of climate policies that run through today and affected almost all the countries.

Of course, it wasn’t perfect and has some its flaws. And yet.

Now is the time to build on and step up what Kyoto has accumulated.

What’s bothering me is my country didn’t sign up for the second commitment period of the protocol. It said the Protocol would “fix” the separation between “developed” and “developing” countries.

It might look so in today’s context. But we have to know it is developed countries like Japan which screwed the trust building process leading up to today by asserting actions were needed on developing countries’ side BEFORE they took sufficient action.

If you look at Japan’s GHG record, the country never succeeded to bring down its emissions below 1990 level before the Lehman shock hit the economy. The country can achieve the target in Kyoto with credits and sinks but the substance of efforts wasn’t certainly not impressive to claim that “we did our share.”

I wouldn’t say it was just developed countries’ fault. Some very unconstructive negotiation stance from major economies certainly disturbed the process. When I was sitting in the conference plenary room as an observer, I sometimes wondered why the negotiations had to be so destructive many times.

After the country decided not to join Kyoto’s CP2, Japan seemed to plan its own actions under its own emission reduction target. Today, even the voluntary target is fading away.

I have to ask: where is our pride? Walking away from the treaty that has old capital’s name is one thing but not showing its way even after almost two years since the earthquake is a different thing.

In a nutshell, we are in a deep sh*t hole on this epic day.

There are signs of hopeful changes in this country. I’m not as pessimistic as this sounds and I have some optimism left in me.

With renewed determination, we must continue our efforts.

 

 

Japanese new government is set to revise the climate target

1. The instruction has been given

So, now it’s official.

Prime Minister Abe instructed on Friday(25 January 2013) Environment Minister and other relevant ministers to revise the existing mid-term target for climate action from the scratch in time for COP19 scheduled in November.

The existing mid-term target is to reduce GHG emissions by 25% below 1990 before 2020. The target was one of the big changes that the former DPJ government made after they took the administration in 2009. It had been also considered relatively “ambitious” target among developed countries.

However, LDP had criticized it as “unrealistic” even before the earthquake and Fukushima disaster. After the massive victory of LDP against DPJ in the last December election, it was just matter of time until the new government would revise the target.

2. So, what is it gonna be?

Although it is still too early to tell what would be the likely target, there are a few things that we can base our thinking on.

Before the regime change (from LDP to DPJ) in 2009, the LDP government’s official pledge was 15% reduction below the 2005 level by 2020. This pledge was made under Prime Minister Aso’s term back in 2009. The old target is 8% below the 1990 level by 2020 if you convert it from the 2005 base year to the 1990 base year. Please see then PM Aso’s speech below for the details. Please note this figure does not assume offset credits.

After DPJ took the government, raising the target to the “25%” was one of the first things that the new government did.

I believe LDP’s starting point of the discussion is this old target.

3. A big question: Nuclear

However, one important, difficult factor is of course nuclear, which would affect the climate target. Back in 2009, LDP’s assumption behind their target was to build 9 more new nuclear power plants by 2020, which would have resulted in 40-45% share in total electricity mix in 2020.

Building this many of nuclear power plants by 2020 would be unrealistic even under LDP’s pro-nuclear stance now. As you might now, the DPJ’s government has been conducting the review of energy strategy after the earthquake. When they presented the so-called the three options for the strategy last summer (see below), the nuclear shares ranged from 0% to 25% in 2030.

DPJ’s Energy and Environmental Council ended up deciding to phase out nuclear “during 2030s,” without giving a specific number to the share of nuclear in 2030.

Given PM Abe’s comments on nuclear during the election campaign, his government will revisit the DPJ government’s decision on phasing out.

Unfortunately, I believe now the “phase out” is gone.  But I do not know how much PM Abe’s government would go back ward given the strong skepticism towards nuclear policy by the public.

My current guess is that the nuclear discussion would fall somewhere between 15% and 25% of electricity in 2030. The 15% figure roughly corresponds to the estimated share when they assume the phase out of all the nuclear power plants after 40-year lifetime. The 25% figure assumes some replacement with new nuclear power plants. The LDP at least said that they would reduce Japan’s dependence on nuclear as much as possible. If you take the current (before the earthquake) share of 30% as the base line, the 25% would look “less dependent.”

Now, this range of nuclear 15%-25% corresponds to -9 to -10% below 1990 levels by 2020 for the climate target based on the government’s estimates. Those estimates were made under DPJ but those were made by bureaucrats and wound’t change that much, I assume.

The reason why this range looks better than the old 8% despite the lowered nuclear share is difference in assumptions on renewables and energy efficiency improvements.

These (relatively) big renewable assumptions and energy efficiency improvements are not popular among industries, which would have stronger influence on LDP. I have no idea how much these RES and EE assumptions would be lowered in LDP. Even with industry’s pressure, LDP does not want to look less progressive on these two areas.

When do we have the conclusion?

With the current pace of discussion, I’m not sure if our government would bring anything even to the upcoming June session of UNFCCC. PM Abe’s instruction is “by COP19 in November.”

One little hope is that PM Abe himself was interested in climate when he first took the government (see, below). However, the context is totally different now.

However, when he made his General Policy Speech in front of the Diet today (28 January 2013), he didn’t mention “climate” at all. Not even a word. A few media articles explained PM Abe seemed to keep specific topics for his another speech later during this Diet session. Nonetheless, not even a word….