Nuclear hawks under Kishida threaten Suga’s renewable energy push


Pro-nuclear lawmakers now occupy key positions under the leadership of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, raising fears that he is straying from the previous administration’s focus on renewable to help achieve “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The new ministers in charge of Japan’s efforts to tackle climate change and energy issues under the Kishida administration have pledged to meet the net zero target.

“A withdrawal from the current political line is out of the question, given the global trend towards decarbonization,” said a senior environment ministry official.

In October 2020, then Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged to meet the goal of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with fanfare.

He raised the bar in April by announcing that Japan would target a 46% reduction by 2030 from fiscal 2013 levels ahead of a session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Changes. climatic.

Japan had previously targeted a reduction of 26 percent.

The Suga administration also spelled out the principle of prioritizing renewable energies such as solar and wind power over all other energy sources in government programs.

“What is important is to continue the existing policy and we will adhere to it,” said Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, who replaced Shinjiro Koizumi as Minister of the Environment, commenting on the goals of net zero emissions and priority for the environment. renewable energies at a press conference on October 5.

But he also said he was ready to listen to comments from the electric power industry.

Japan’s main environmental and energy policies aimed at achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and decarbonizing electricity grids by using more renewable energies were spelled out in the revised global warming law promulgated this year, and the new version of the Basic Energy Plan, which is expected to receive Cabinet approval this month.

The new Basic Energy Plan drawn up by the Suga administration made no mention of these nuclear-related projects despite pressure from pro-nuclear lawmakers within the PLD and the nuclear industry.

PLD lawmakers who support nuclear power are unhappy with the Basic Energy Plan, which says Japan “will reduce its dependence on nuclear power as much as possible.”

Koichi Hagiuda, who became Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry under Kishida, also said he would follow the current policy.

“We will give top priority to promoting renewable energies and introduce them as much as possible,” he said on October 5. “We are not considering any plans to build nuclear reactors or replace old ones with new ones.”

Corn concerns have been expressed about a possible return to a greater reliance on nuclear energy as a result of the pro-nuclear lawmakers in key positions in government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Koizumi, who as environment minister advocated for renewable energy, and Taro Kono, who served as minister in charge of administrative reform and is a staunch opponent of nuclear power, were replaced when Kishida formed his cabinet.

Koizumi, who is cautious about continued reliance on nuclear power and a strong advocate for renewables, said the pro-nuclear bloc may try to back down.

“A throwback will likely be to some extent,” he said at a press conference on October 1.

Despite his vow against new reactor projects, Hagiuda is a close ally of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is the top adviser to a group of lawmakers advocating the construction of new reactors to replace aging units.

Akira Amari, the new secretary general of the LDP, the second most powerful post after party chairman Kishida, is the group’s top adviser.

Sanae Takaichi, who offered to step up the development of new technologies to build a nuclear fusion reactor during the LDP leadership race last month, landed the post of party political leader.

With these lawmakers in influential positions, a government official said: “The Ministry of Industry and the LDP are likely to exert more leverage to roll back energy policy.”

Unsurprisingly, the nuclear industry hailed the government and the new party formation.

“Lawmakers who have shown understanding for the nuclear industry have been appointed to many key positions,” said a senior official at a major electricity company.

Experts fear the new administration will block Japan’s efforts to decarbonize its economy with renewable energy.

The Ministry of the Environment has called for the full introduction into the tax reform for fiscal year 2022 of the carbon pricing program, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from businesses.

But the electric power industry and the Ministry of Industry are cautious about their decision.

Kono had spearheaded the initiative to relax regulations that hindered the spread of renewable energy sources.

In the absence of such a driving force within the Kishida cabinet, it is not clear that regulations will be relaxed further to increase renewables.

Kishida apparently does not believe that Japan relies on renewables as a dominant energy source.

“Renewable energies are important sources of energy, but is it wise to rely on them alone? He asked during the recent race for the election of the president of the PLD.

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