Published by Reclaim Finance, Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES), Friends of the Earth Japan, Japan, Mekong Watch, Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI – FoE Indonesia), WALHI West Java, CLEAN and Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED)

Japanese media reported that Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi plans to visit France from the end of September to early October [1]; this is an opportunity for the French government to stand firm against Japan’s ongoing support to the coal sector. We call on the French government to oppose the Japanese presence at November’s Finance in Common Summit unless the Japanese government ceases all support to coal-fired power projects.

The French Government has been one of the louder voices in favor of a coal exit at an international level. In 2015, the French government became the first to commit to no longer supporting the construction of new coal plants through its export credit agency COFACE[2]. France was also one of the earliest members of the Power Past Coal Alliance, a coalition that aims “to advance the transition from unabated coal power generation to clean energy.” The French President’s public positions in favor of the decarbonization of financial flows led to its appointment by the UN as an ambassador on climate finance.

On the other hand, Japan is still planning 11.9GW of new coal power capacity at home[3]. Its public financial institutions–Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)–have also supported the development of 8.6GW of new coal plants since the signing of the Paris agreements.

After massive international criticism toward Japan, in July 2020, the Japanese government adopted a policy [5] which stated that “in principle,” the government will not provide official financial support for any host country that does not have a confirmed policy for transition to decarbonization. However, the principles leave a major loophole, since they do not apply to projects that are at the planning stage. We know the Japanese government is now or will soon be considering 3.4GW of three overseas coal power projects: (1) Vung Ang 2 in Vietnam, which the JBIC and NEXI are considering financing/insuring, and (2) Indramayu in Indonesia and (3) Matarbari Phase 2 in Bangladesh, both for which the JICA is expected to receive requests for support.

New coal-fired power plants, including those currently under consideration, will typically operate for decades, thereby “locking in” future greenhouse gas emissions for an extended period. Each of them is utterly inconsistent with a 1.5°C target which requires the closure of thousands of coal power units by 2030, including all those under operation in developed countries, to achieve a full coal phase-out by 2040. In 2019, the UN Secretary-General called countries to make 2020 the last year when new coal plants got built.

France is hosting the Finance in Common Summit which will be taking place during the Paris Peace Forum on November 12. This summit is the first global meeting of Public Development Banks that will reconcile “the entire finance community in support of the common action for climate and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” [6]

Yuki Tanabe, Program Director, Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES) says that “The three coal projects under consideration could still be stopped and we call upon the French Government to stand firm on its climate position. The Japanese government has already received a lot of criticisms from the international community, but it has not been enough to push Japan to stop coal plants. The French government must let the Foreign Minister Motegi know that they will condition Japan’s attendance of the November summit to a commitment to stop supporting new coal plants, including the ones in the pipeline.”

Lucie Pinson, Executive Director, Reclaim Finance says that “These three coal plants are not only driving the world away from any chance to keep global warming at 1.5°C, they do not even make economic sense and would lead to serious human rights violations. It is high time for the French Government to stop talking and start acting by refusing further meetings with governments that are still supporting the expansion of the coal sector. This week’s meeting with the Japanese Foreign Ministry must be the last one until Japan ends all support to new coal plants. A pro-coal Japanese government is not welcome at an international summit held in the city of the Paris Agreement”.

For more information, please contact:

  • Lucie Pinson, Reclaim Finance
    Phone: +33 (0)6 79543715
  • Yuki Tanabe, Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES)