On December 16, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment issued an opinion on the Document on Primary Environmental Impact Consideration for the planning stage of the GENESIS Matsushima Project, a plan by J-Power to “upcycle” the existing coal-fired power plant Matsushima Power Station Unit 2 in Saikai City, Nagasaki Prefecture.
This is the first time the Minister of the Environment has commented on the plans for coal-fired power plants since the Japanese government declared its 2050 net-zero target, strengthened its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target for 2030, and signed the Glasgow Climate Pact at COP26 in November, which encourages “clean power generation” and pushes forward the global “phasedown of unabated coal power.”
Although the Minister of the Environment asked the government to “fully acknowledge the extremely difficult conditions surrounding coal-fired power generation both at home and abroad, and to move to introduce alternative, carbon-free fuels such as biomass and ammonia as quickly as possible” and to “consider all options, including reconsidering the implementation of this project if a roadmap cannot be made that is consistent with Japan’s GHG reduction targets,” the Minister of the Environment in effect condoned the plan, which has a number of problems.
- The Matsushima Power Station Unit 2 (500MW) has been in operation for 40 years. Even if gasification equipment is added to the plant, coal will continue to be burned, and CO2 emissions will not be effectively reduced. Despite this, the Minister of the Environment has not expressed any harsh opinions on the GENESIS Matsushima project itself, instead only commenting on the overall issue that “it is necessary for the entire electric power industry to work on reducing CO2 emissions.”
- By actively encouraging the concept of adopting “carbon-free fuels” that have no feasibility in sight, the Minister’s comments are nothing more than an attempt to prolong the life of coal-fired power plants. Under the government’s guidelines, J-Power and other power companies are developing technologies in order to use hydrogen and ammonia as fuels for power generation. However, the production processes of hydrogen and ammonia result in CO2 emissions, and CO2 emissions are not effectively reduced when looking at the entire value chain. Moreover, coal gasification will not allow us to break away from our dependence on fossil fuels, nor from our dependence on foreign countries for fuel. Prolonging the life of inefficient coal-fired power plants by gambling on innovative technologies with little practical application will only slow down Japan’s decarbonization.
- Installing gasification equipment in coal-fired power plants will not reduce CO2 emissions, and in reality will emit large quantities of CO2. This is inconsistent with Japan’s domestic and international reduction targets, such as the GHG 2050 net zero declaration, the strengthened GHG reduction target for 2030, and the Glasgow Climate Pact.
The Minister of the Environment should have strongly stated that the plan is unacceptable and demanded that it be cancelled, as it is inconsistent with both domestic and international efforts to prevent climate change.
A complete phase-out of existing and under-construction coal-fired power plants is necessary to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5℃ and to avoid the climate crisis.
Let’s make our opposition to the Environment Minister’s opinion heard far and wide!
- Submission of the Minister of the Environment’s Opinion on the Document on Primary Environmental Impact Consideration for the Planning Stage of the GENESIS Matsushima Project (Ministry of the Environment) (Link) [Japanese]
- Kiko Network response to the Minister of the Environment’s opinion（2021/12/16） (Link）[Japanese]
- FoE Japan response to the Minister of the Environment’s opinion（2021/12/21) (Link) [Japanese]
- 【News】COP26：Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement (Link)