With extreme weather events occurring frequently around the world and the time remaining until 2030 dwindling by the minute, addressing climate change is an urgent issue. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration is promoting its “GX (Green Transformation) Strategy” to achieve a decarbonized society, but this includes a number of false solutions.
Essentially, “Green Transformation refers to the transformation of the entire economic and social system from an economy, society, and industrial structure dependent on fossil fuels to a sustainable society centered on renewable energy. However, in July 2022, the Japanese government launched the GX Executive Committee to promote discussions that focus on innovative technologies that have not yet been put to practical use, rather than focusing on the shift to renewable energy and developing a sustainable society.
The Japanese government will host Tokyo GX Week from September 26 to October 7, and will hold 10 international conferences, including the Global Green Transformation Conference, to discuss the use of hydrogen, ammonia, carbon capture and storage (CCS), fossil gas, etc. It is clear that the Japanese government’s GX strategy will delay the transition away from dependence on fossil fuels through these false solutions.
What are these “false solutions”?
- Burning hydrogen and ammonia with coal to produce electricity only maintains Japan’s dependency on fossil fuels by extending the life of the country’s fossil fuel infrastructure. Additionally, the technology for this is not commercially established yet, and the effectiveness of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions is questionable. It is dangerous to envision an energy transition that relies on risky technologies with such economic and technological uncertainty.
- Fossil gas cannot be a “bridge” in a shift to clean energy. In light of the energy security issues arising from Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the promotion of LNG use is problematic not only from the perspective of decarbonization and environmental protection, but also from one of energy security. Additionally, overseas gas development projects promoted by Japanese public and private sectors have been reported to cause local environmental destruction and human rights abuses against indigenous peoples, and the international community has expressed great concern over these issues.
- Large amounts of public funds have been invested in fossil fuel infrastructure – Japan’s public funding for gas and oil is one of the largest in the world (from 2012 to 2020). The Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) Act was amended to add the promotion of the use of hydrogen, ammonia, and other fuels (as well as carbon capture and storage) but there are no restrictions on how ammonia and hydrogen can be produced (e.g. restricting production of hydrogen/ammonia from fossil fuels). Thus, there are serious concerns that additional funds will be poured into fossil fuel development.
At the G7 Summit in June 2022, the Japanese government agreed to prioritize “concrete and timely steps toward the goal of accelerating the phase-out of domestic unabated coal power generation”, but since then has not indicated any substantive reduction measures, and it is strictly unacceptable to consider hydrogen/ammonia co-firing technology – which the Japanese government is trying to promote domestically and internationally – an “emission reduction measure”. It is necessary for the Japanese government to promote concrete and reliable greenhouse gas reduction measures, instead of false solutions such as hydrogen/ammonia co-firing, CCS/CCUS utilization, and promotion of fossil gas.
METI: Tokyo GX Week