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Environment

Japan minister seeks review of coal-fired plant in Vietnam

Environment chief Koizumi questions government support for Vung Ang plant

Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi delivers a speech at COP25 in Madrid last December.   © Kyodo

Tokyo -- In the face of international pressure regarding the building of coal-fired power plants, Japan's environment minister on Friday called on the government to reconsider plans to finance such a plant in Vietnam.

Shinjiro Koizumi first tried to lay out a plan to review Japan's coal-fired power exports in December, in Madrid at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP25. But his effort was in vain.

Although Japan's coal-burning projects were criticized at the forum, forces within the Japanese government prevented the Environment Ministry from launching the review Koizumi sought.

But the Vietnamese project, the Vung Ang 2 power plant, will be financed by Japan, specifically by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. Construction has been contracted out to American and Chinese companies.

"It is strange for Japan to pay money, and for the United States and China to build," Koizumi said at a news conference this week.

Koizumi does not believe the project meets government export support requirements, which mandate Japanese technologies be requested for a project.

Coal-fired power plants, which emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, have been criticized by the international community for running counter to climate change efforts. Hiroshi Kajiyama, Japan's minister for economy, trade and industry, on Friday told reporters that the matter raised by Koizumi "must be taken seriously."

But Koizumi still faces challengers within the cabinet, and the government plans to support the construction of coal-fired power plants overseas if certain conditions are met.

Japan's state-of-the-art coal-fired power generation technology is said to be more efficient and to emit less carbon dioxide than most similar plants. This gives the government the rationale it seeks to support these exports.

"Many low-efficiency coal-fired power plants are operating, mainly in emerging economies," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a plenary session of the Diet on Thursday.

Koizumi said he will also raise the issue of "carbon pricing," a tax on greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union plans to introduce a "border carbon tax" in 2021 on imports that emit a large amount of greenhouse gases in the production process. Such products include cars and machinery, which made up nearly half of Japan's exports to the bloc in 2018.

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