By Kimiko Hirata
As a climate policy advocate for many decades, I was truly shocked to see the Japanese government and corporations rush to return to coal power following the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident in 2011. Japan’s promotion of coal power projects in the midst of a climate crisis clearly indicated that the climate was not an important issue for Japan, or was just fully ignored.
A large-scale, coal-fired power plant emits approximately 6 million ton of CO2 annually, equivalent to annual CO2 emissions of 1.5 million households. Despite such an enormous quantity of emissions, the government continued to approve expansion plans and endorse coal as an important energy source. Given the backdrop of the global climate crisis, we decided to make the issue our highest priority, raised our voices, and took action.
Since 2012, 50 units of coal power projects were planned for construction in Japan; to date, one third of these plans have been canceled. I am so grateful to all the partner organizations and people who have supported our work. The Goldman Prize is dedicated to my colleagues at the Kiko Network, relevant NGOs, and members of local communities who have fought with tenacity and dedication to make this happen. The Prize is tremendous encouragement for our work.
However, our work is not yet done. Coal power plants continue to be constructed, such as those in Kobe and Yokosuka. Over 150 units of existing coal power plants are still operating in Japan. If CO2 emissions from these plants continue, a solution for the climate will not be within our reach. In addition to our work to stop the construction of new coal power plants, we must now take further steps to achieve a complete coal phase-out by 2030. As clean and renewable energy become a cheaper and more realistic option, it is necessary that Japan accelerates its transition from coal to achieve net zero emissions.
If we are committed, change is possible. I strongly hope that people will join us, take action, and be a part of the solution.
About the author:
Kimiko Hirata is the international director and founding member of the Kiko Network, a Japanese NGO dedicated to halting climate change, and a visiting associate professor at the Chiba University of Commerce. In 2019, her campaigning and collaboration with the government, business, and nonprofit sectors culminated in the cancellation of 13 planned coal plants, averting the emission of 42 million tons of CO2 per year. Kimiko won the Goldman Prize for Islands & Island Nations in 2021.