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Watered-down strategy against global warming draws criticism:The Asahi Shimbun – Asahi Shimbun

Environmentalists criticized the government’s draft of its long-term strategy to reduce greenhouse gases, saying the watered-down plan bends to businesses and prevents Japan from playing a leading role against global warming.

The draft, compiled by an advisory panel and released on April 23, is intended to show how Japan will meet its objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Documents obtained by The Asahi Shimbun showed that the draft omitted earlier calls to eliminate all coal-fired thermal power plants over the long run because of their large volume of carbon dioxide emissions.

Instead, the draft states that dependence on such coal-fired plants be “reduced as much as possible.”

The strategy does seek an elimination of all chlorofluorocarbons that have a high greenhouse effect.

It also proposes that renewable energy sources be turned into a major power source by 2050, and that technological developments be pushed to increase the use of hydrogen energy.

The draft leaves open the use of nuclear energy, saying efforts should be made to produce reactors that have high safety levels, are economically feasible and are flexible in their use.

The government plans to gather public opinion before finalizing the strategy in time for the Group of 20 summit in Osaka in June.

But Mie Asaoka, president of Kiko Network, an environmental nongovernment organization, said the continued use of coal-fired thermal plants outlined in the strategy showed the government has already abandoned any leadership role for that summit.

“It was an opportunity for the government to assume leadership at the G-20 summit, but it closed the door,” Asaoka said.

Japan has been criticized internationally for its continued dependence on coal-fired power plants, especially after the 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The nation plans to construct additional thermal plants, which account for about 30 percent of all electricity generated.

Criticism was also directed at the apparent closed nature of the advisory panel’s discussions that led to the watered-down version of the strategy draft.

According to sources, Shinichi Kitaoka, the president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency who chaired the advisory panel, distributed a proposal to other panel members in early February that said Japan should clearly take a position of working toward the elimination of all coal-fired thermal plants.

Two informal panel sessions were held in February and March at which representatives from the business sector, including Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), pushed back on the proposal to eliminate coal-fired thermal plants.

Business leaders favor the use of such plants because of the low costs involved.

In the end, the draft settled for wording calling for a reduced dependence on such plants.

The five formal panel sessions were not open to the public, but documents distributed to panel members at those sessions as well as a summary of the minutes of the meetings were made public over the Internet.

However, no information was released about the two informal sessions at which Kitaoka’s proposal was discussed.

Teruyuki Ohno, executive director of the Renewable Energy Institute, criticized the earlier release of the panel’s draft, on April 2, without providing any information of the discussions that had taken place until the conclusions were reached.

(This article was written by Shinichi Sekine, Rintaro Sakurai and Tsuyoshi Kawamura.)

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