Business Lobbyists Stymy Climate Much-Needed Action in Japan

Japanese National Diet Building. Image: Wikipedia

by Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer

Japan’s efforts to fight climate change is “hindered” by the influential business lobby Keidanren, Aaron Sheldrick reported for Reuters yesterday. As Sheldrick explained, the powerful lobby is “dominated by energy-intensive sectors that represent less than 10% of the economy, resulting in national policies that favor coal and are hindering attempts to combat climate change.”

Why This Matters: Japan has in the past faced criticism for its paltry actions on climate change. Earlier this year, Japan released its plan on how to fight climate change as part of the Paris agreement, representing the “first large economy to do so.” However, as Fiona Harvey reported in The Guardian, the plan, with its relatively low carbon reduction targets, was deemed “grossly inadequate” by environmental activists and advocates. 

Now, as data analysis company InfluenceMap showed, that may be part of a larger trend of “the influence of the county’s electricity, steel, cement, car and fossil fuel sectors undermin[ing] Japan’s attempts to meet its Paris Agreement commitments.” 

Legal Loopholes: Last month, environmental advocates were outraged at the governmental policy of financing coal plants overseas. Although environmental minister Shinjiro Koizumi “promised to scrap funds for dirty plants abroad,” the Japanese government ultimately “came up short,” as Climate Change News reported. Although the government said it would end the financing of overseas coal plants in countries that do not hold a decarbonization policy “in principle,” it created numerous loopholes to get around this. 

As climate activists Lily Nacpil and Susanne Wong note, “According to climate experts, building any new coal plant is inconsistent with meeting the goals of the Paris agreement and averting catastrophic climate change.” Yet, coal in Japan itself is also “surg[ing] to record levels” after the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima. According to Reuters, Japan is the “only G7 country working on a major rollout of coal power, with companies planning to build around 20 new coal-fired plants with a total capacity of 12,000 megawatts.” 

Japan’s Vulnerability: Japan is particularly vulnerable to climate change, making this business lobbying on behalf of coal and other energy-intensive industries all the more worrisome. As Climate Change News reported, rising sea temperatures in Japan have “led to more frequent and severe rainstorms, like the current deluge that has left at least 68 people dead in Japan’s southern Kumamoto prefecture.” Deadly rains have become common in Japan, with climate change-induced “widespread flooding” in southern Japan occurring in 2018 as well. Japan must do its part to meet the Paris Accords, both for the sake of the world-at-large and to help mitigate further deaths in its own country. 


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