【News】Progress on decarbonization made at G7 ministerial meeting, but Japan blocks ambitious action on coal phase-out
On April 16, 2023, meetings between ministers of the environment, climate and energy of the Group of Seven (G7) countries (Japan, Germany, US, UK, France, Canada, Italy) concluded in Sapporo.
Under the backdrop of a global energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, ministers worked to collectively reduce their countries’ dependence on fossil fuels and transition to clean energy, resulting in a communique ahead of the G7 Leaders’ Summit to be held in Hiroshima on May 19-21.
Notable agreements in the communique related to power generation include:
- Recognizing the need to end the construction of new unabated coal-fired power generation (Para 66)
- Accelerating the phase-out of domestic unabated coal power generation in a manner consistent with keeping a limit of 1.5°C temperature rise within reach (Para 66)
- Achieving a fully or predominantly decarbonized power sector by 2035 (Para 66)
- Accelerating the phase-out of unabated fossil fuels so as to achieve net zero in energy systems by 2050 at the latest (Para 49)
- All Parties whose 2030 NDC targets or long-term low GHG emission development Strategies (LTSs) are not yet aligned with a 1.5°C pathway and net zero by 2050 to revisit and strengthen the 2030 NDC targets before COP28 (Para 46)
- Peaking GHG emissions no later than 2025. (Para 46)
- Expanding renewable energy and bringing down costs by 2030 (Para 64)
- Highlight the increased urgency to reduce global GHG emissions by around 43 percent by 2030 and 60 percent by 2035 (Para 44)
Despite the Japanese government’s efforts to backtrack on last year’s G7 climate commitments and block new ones, many commitments were not only reaffirmed in this year’s communique, but also strengthened. 2022’s agreement to prioritize “concrete and timely steps towards the goal of accelerating the phase-out of domestic unabated coal power generation” now specifies that a phase-out must be done “in a manner consistent with keeping a limit of 1.5°C temperature rise within reach”, which studies show require a 2030 coal-fired power phase-out for Japan and other OECD countries.
Additionally, the communique recognizes “the need to end the construction of new unabated coal-fired power generation as identified in the IEA’s Coal in Net Zero Transitions report in 2022”, and “[calls] on and will work with other countries to end new unabated coal-fired power generation projects globally as soon as possible”. This is a notable commitment from Japan, which has started operation of multiple new coal power units since last year’s G7 commitments were made and still has new coal units in the planning and construction phases.
Furthermore, 2022’s commitment by G7 leaders to achieve a “fully or predominantly decarbonized power sector by 2035” is reaffirmed in this year’s environment ministers’ communique. However, while the rest of the G7 countries were prepared to agree to a “fully decarbonized” power sector by 2035, reportedly Japan was the only country out of the G7 to resist this commitment, insisting on maintaining “predominantly” in the communique.
Another highlight of this year’s communique was new, concrete targets on renewable energy. Based on IEA and IRENA analysis, the G7 countries agreed to a collective increase of 150GW of offshore wind power by 2030, along with an increase of solar power to at least 1TW by the same year. These targets indicate that in addition to phasing out coal-fired power, the G7 clearly sees renewables as the most feasible and effective path to a decarbonized power sector.
Notable were not only the commitments made, but also what was not included in the communique; Japan was reported to have requested in the text G7 endorsements of it’s GX (“Green Transformation”) policy and the co-firing of ammonia/hydrogen with fossil fuels, but the rest of the G7 was highly critical of these and refused to support either, with representatives such as United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry speaking out against Japan’s plans to extend the life of fossil fuels. Due to pushback from other countries, the communique did not endorse the use of ammonia co-firing, but rather only “noted”that some countries were exploring the use of low-carbon and renewable hydrogen and its derivatives (ammonia) in the power sector if it can be aligned with a 1.5℃ pathway and the G7’s 2035 power sector targets. Numerous reports have already shown that Japan’s GX policy and use of fuel ammonia are not consistent with either of these.
While the commitments in G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers’ Communiqué are one more step toward decarbonization, they lack the urgency necessary to phase out coal in time to meet the 1.5℃ target and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Phasing out coal-fired power in Japan by 2030 is an essential step toward this, and Prime Minister Kishida should show Japan’s leadership at the upcoming G7 Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima and endorse a coal-free world by 2030.
Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan：G7 Ministers’ Meeting on Climate, Energy and Environment in Sapporo (Link)
G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers’ Communiqué（PDF）
JBC partner organization press releases
- 【Kiko Network】G7 Ministers’ Meeting on Climate, Energy and Environment closes: Japan, as the host country, should present a concrete roadmap to 1.5°C, including a timeframe for phasing out coal-fired power generation (Link)
- 【Renewable Energy Institute】Rapid Renewable Energy Growth is Needed to Achieve a 60% GHG Emission Reduction by 2035: In light of the G7 Communiqué (Link)
- 【CAN-JAPAN】On the G7 Ministers’ Meeting on Climate, Energy and Environment in Sapporo: Roadmap to 1.5℃, agreement to accelerate decarbonization needed at G7 Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima (Link)