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.

 

Advertisements

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.

 

 

Nuclear Phaseout? — A trick in the 15% Scenario

In the previous post, I talked about the three Options for Energy and the Environment presented by the Japanese government. From now on, I want to dig into a little bit deep into the content of the Options.

Although this is not exactly my favorite topic, let me first deal with the issue of nuclear because this is the dividing factor of the three Options and is currently at the center of people’s attention.

As I mentioned in the previous post, there are three scenarios for nuclear’s share in 2030.

  • 0% by 2030
  • 15% by 2030
  • 20-25% by 2030

There are 54 nuclear reactors in Japan (of which, 4 are already to be scraped due to the Fukushima accident). And the current (2010, pre-Fukushima) share of nuclear in electricity is 26.4% (or 30.8% if you exclude cogeneration and onsite generation from the total).

So what do these scenarios tell you?

According to government’s own explanation, the 15% scenario is described as a scenario of gradual phase out of nuclear power plants. The “15%” is said to be a milestone in 2030 when each of nuclear power plants is phased out after 40-year lifetime (this “40-year lifetime” is a new policy that was adopted by the government).

But this is not exactly true. To make a long story short, the only “0% scenario” assumes actual reduction of nuclear power plants and both 15% and 20-25% factually assumes new construction.

There is an interesting slide prepared by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) [in Japanese]. Below is a rough translation of the table in the slide. The table basically shows the background assumptions for certain % share of nuclear in 2030. For example, to get 13% share in 2030, you need to assume 40-year lifetime, no new additional construction and 70% of capacity utilization rate (load factor).  CUR stands for capacity utilization rate.

 

Snapshot of Year 2030 Reactor Lifetime Assumption
40 years 50 years 60 years
Elec Generation
TWh
Share Elec Generation
TWh
Share Elec Generation
TWh
Share
(1) No new reactor CUR 70% 130.2 13% 218 22% 283 28%
CUR 80% 148.8 15% 249.2 25% 323.4 32%
(2) One new reactor CUR 70% 139.4 14% 227.2 23% 292.2 29%
CUR 80% 159.3 16% 259.7 26% 333.9 33%
(3) Two new reactors CUR 70% 148.6 15% 236.4 24% 301.4 30%
CUR 80% 169.8 17% 270.2 27% 344.4 34%

What you can see from this table is, if you want to get 15% share, you need to assume AT LEAST either:

  1. 40-year lifetime, no new reactors, 80% capacity utilization rate,
  2. 40-year lifetime, one new reactor, 80% capacity utilization rate, or
  3. 40-year lifetime, two new reactors, 70% capacity utilization rate

However, these assumptions have three problems.

1) even in the case of “no new reactors,” it is assumed to restart the 6 remaining nuclear reactors in the area of Fukushima: Apart from the 4 completely damaged nuclear reactors, Fukushima Prefecture has 6 more nuclear reactors.  2 in the same site with the damaged 4 (Fukushima No.1) and 4 in a different power site (Fukushima No.2)).  You can see a map of the location in page 43 of this document. This is highly unlikely to be accepted by the people in Fukushima.

2) 70%-80% Utilization rates are not realistic: in the recent years, the average utilization rate of nuclear power plants in Japan has been around 65%. Increasing the rate means less time for regular inspection. This is again, highly unlikely to be accepted (nor desirable) in the post-Fukushima context.

3) There may be some overestimation: if you add up all the capacity of nuclear power plants in Japan and do calculations under the same assumptions, the figures for these cases would become a few % lower than the figures above.   For example, if you run the numbers for the first case, it will only produce 14%.

All of the three options assume the reduced numbers of nuclear reactors in Japan compared to the current level but 0% Scenario is the only one that goes in the direction of actual phaseout.