【News】Japan’s Cabinet approves policies to implement GX, NGOs respond
On 10 February 2023, Japan’s Cabinet approved two pieces of legislation, a basic policy and a bill, aimed at implementing a so-called “Green Transformation”(GX).
The “Basic Policy for the Realization of Green Transformation” (GX Basic Policy) was finalized by the government’s GX implementation meeting held on 22 December. The government collected public comments for approximately one month, with 3,966 comments submitted, including many against nuclear power. However, the government’s decision was made almost exactly as originally proposed before the public comment period. Explanatory and opinion-exchange meetings have been scheduled in various locations, but the majority of them will be held after the deadline for public comment, and the government has stated at one such meeting that “the comments during the opinion exchange meetings will not be reflected in the GX Basic Policy”. It is clear that the collection of public comments and opinion exchange meetings are only a token gesture by the government, far from a good-faith effort to listen to the voices of the citizens.
The GX Basic Policy is to promote, in the name of carbon neutrality, the use of nuclear power, hydrogen and ammonia co-firing with fossil fuels, and carbon capture and storage (CCS). It has been criticized by NGOs like Kiko Network as “prolonging the life of coal-fired power generation, hindering the promotion of necessary climate change measures such as the buildup of renewable energy, and eventually decreasing the global competitiveness of Japanese industries while increasing the burden on citizens through rising energy costs”. Co-firing hydrogen and ammonia with thermal power plants has only a minor effect on CO2 emission reductions, and CCS is far away from practical use. Rather, these technologies will fix large amounts of long-term CO2 emissions by extending the life of fossil fuel thermal power plants. The roadmap under this policy is far from the reductions required to achieve the 1.5°C target.
Main Problems with GX
- It will maximize the long-term use of nuclear generation by prolonging the operating life of nuclear power reactors for more than the current limit of 60 years, building new “advanced reactors”, and reconstructing reactors to replace those that are decommissioned.
- It will attract huge investment in the development of technologies to use hydrogen and ammonia as fuels for power generation, and promote the commercialization of CCS. On the premise of carbon capture and storage (CCS), it promotes the continued use of fossil fuels and co-firing of hydrogen and ammonia for power generation.
- Both co-firing fossil fuels with hydrogen/ammonia and single-firing hydrogen/ammonia will prolong the life of coal-fired power generation and other fossil fuel power. It not only will delay the transition away from coal, but it is also problematic as a means to address climate change.
- Even if CCS technology could work to capture all of Japan’s CO2 emissions, there are simply not enough storage sites in Japan. Shipping CO2 for storage to other countries in southeast Asia or elsewhere and continuing to emit CO2 at home will not be accepted internationally.
- In order to collect 150-trillion yen of investments in the combined private and public sector over the next 10 years, the government will finance 20 trillion yen through the issuance of new government bonds, called “GX Economic Transition Bonds” (provisional name). Such an amount of money will be tied to legislation in the name of “decarbonization” and used for continuing nuclear and fossil fuel power generation.
- A carbon pricing system, under which companies will pay for their CO2 emissions, won’t be fully launched until later than FY2026. (Emissions trading scheme will be introduced in FY2026 and a carbon levy on fossil fuel importers in FY2028.). Participation in this scheme will be voluntary, and it has been criticized as not meaningfully contributing to decarbonization.
The GX Promotion Bill, which was approved at the same time, is identified as a necessary measure to implement the GX Basic Policy, and both of these have been submitted to the current National Diet session. The carbon tax as mentioned in the GX Promotion Bill has also been criticized as not necessary to accelerate Japan’s decarbonization.
We call for the withdrawal of the GX Basic Policy, and for the concentration of policy and investments on policy measures to expand renewable energy.
Reference (all of the following GX related releases are written in Japanese)
- Results of the Call for Opinions on the Basic Policy for the Realization of GX（Link）
- Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry : “Basic Policy for the Realization of GX” was approved by the Cabinet（Link）
- Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry : “A Bill for an Act to Promote a Smooth Transition to a Decarbonized Growth-Oriented Economic Structure (tentative translation)” was approved by the Cabinet（Link）