SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
XIE Zhihai “Now is the time for considering carbon-free society as environmental issues”
One good thing about the COVID-19 is the sharp decrease of CO2 (carbon dioxide) emission due to static of the economy. However, as you may know, it will be temporal and not for long.
We must work on for the global warming countermeasure together with sustainable economic growth. It is an energy policy. It is the shortest way of global warming countermeasure heading for “decarbonized society”, that we decrease consumption of coal and fuel oil and accelerate alternative renewal energies.
People agreed to “keep rise in average temperature of the whole earth lower than 2 degrees on the AC and keep １.５ degrees lower comparing with the time of Industrial Revolution” in the Paris Agreement in 2015.
Many countries are moving for the direction of “carbon-free”. “Carbon-free” starts from decreasing and stoppage of usage of coal. Discharge of CO2 at coal-fired power plant is double of LNG power station.
The advanced nations have declared stoppage of coal-fired power generation. In case of U.K. they will stop by 2025, France by 2021 and Canada by 2030. And those nations organized PPCA (Powering Past Coal Alliance) in 2016 and 33 nations and ２９ Governments have already joined.
Then, what about Japan? There are 140 coal-fired power plants already. And Japanese company is building a huge coal-fired power plant, which will start operating from 2024, at Vung-ang, Vietnam. Among so-called “G7”, Japan is only nation which is building coal-fired power plants in overseas and is getting sever criticism from other membership countries of the Paris Agreement saying that Japan is not so positive in decarbonation, despite Japan is targeting to decrease greenhouse gas by 23% as compared to the year 2013, and, by the year 2030. Japan has received the disgrace “Fossil award” from “Climate Action Network (CAN)” at UN Climate Action Summit COP25 in December 2019. It was second award in a row. Ministry of Environment, Mr. Koizumi pledged at COP25 that “we have committed ourselves already in decarbonization and we will fulfill it”.
After COP25 last December, Japanese policy for coal-fired power plant is changing. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced on July 3, 2020 that about a hundred of coal-fired power plants out of 140 plants, which are old type and volume of CO2 discharge is large, shall be stopped in operation and disposed by 2030. At the same time, Japan decided to make their export assistance condition of coal-fired power station stern.
We can say this may be the first big step to “decarbonization”, but it is not complete stoppage of using carbon.
Why cannot Japan stop using carbon? There are two main reasons domestically and across. In domestic, almost all the nuclear power plants had to stop operating after “3.11” (Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011) and the number of coal-fired power station (running cost is lower) increased gradually without any debate. Japan cannot abolish coal fired power stations easily, because coal-fired electricity occupies 30% of total electricity in Japan. Developing countries in South East Asia, they are still developing coal-fired power stations. If Japan would stop involvement in such markets, China and/or India will definitely enter in business. And Japan may lose such broad market.
Beside such reasons mentioned above, re-recognition of renewable energy will be necessary to get out of so-called “coal addiction” as Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres pointed out,
It has been told that cost of coal-fired electricity is cheap and cost of electricity by renewable energy is high. Such understandings, however, are not correct anymore. During these ten years since 2011, the cost by solar power generation has gone down by 80%.
According to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance, renewable energy cost by solar power and wind power will become lower than that of coal-fired electricity by 2030. As for the overseas market, economic profit from export of renewable energy technology is higher than export of coal-fired power station plant itself. And it will be appreciated highly by international societies.
To attain the carbon-free societies, prevalence of renewable energy is essential. The government is targeting the share of renewal energy will rise to 22～24% by 2030 and coal-fired electricity will be decreased by only a few percent and upto 26%. This target figure should be reconsidered.
For example, the Japan Association of Corporate Executives insists the share of renewable energy shall be 40% in 2030. The Renewable Energy Institute, established by SON Masayoshi after “3.11”, advocates the target figure shall be 45%. If the Japanese Government would aim seriously at situation where renewable electricity is main electricity, they should introduce renewable energy more brazenly.
And if they can do it, “carbon-free society” is not far from materialization.
SGRA Kawaraban 649 in Japanese (Original)
XIE Zhihai / Associate Professor, Kyoai Gakuen International University
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala