Less than a week since signing the global climate deal in Paris, Japan and South Korea are pressing ahead with plans to open scores of new coal-fired power plants, casting doubt on the strength of their commitment to cutting CO2 emissions.
Even as many of the world’s rich nations seek to phase out the use of coal, Asia’s two most developed economies are burning more than ever and plan to add at least 60 new coal-fired power plants over the next 10 years.
Officials at both countries’ energy ministries said those plans were unchanged.
Japan, in particular, has been criticised for its lack of ambition – its 18-percent target for emissions cuts from 1990 to 2030 is less than half of Europe’s – and questions have been raised about its ability to deliver, since the target relies on atomic energy, which is very unpopular after the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant. […]
South Korea did scrap plans for four coal-fired power plants as part of its pledge to the Paris summit, but 20 new plants are still planned by 2021.
In Japan, 41 new coal-fired power plants are planned over the next decade, and taxes favour imports of coal over cleaner-burning natural gas.
In South Korea, tax on imported coal for power generation was raised in July, but is still only just over a third of the import tax on natural gas.
Coal-fired power plants there currently run at about 80 percent of capacity, compared with 35-40 percent for gas plants, according to calculations based on data from Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO), the country’s largest power utility.
Japan’s environment ministry also declined to comment, but an official said, anonymously, that the Paris climate deal would have no impact on the ministry’s assessments of coal plants.