Tokyo is hosting a 3-day “Japan Energy Summit” starting today. Even in the hyperbolic world of high-level meetings, this summit has lofty ambitions. It promises to accelerate “Japan’s energy transition through innovation and global connections.”

The summit, which will be attended by some 4,000 people, says it is not just a gathering of global thought leaders, ministers, and policymakers but will supposedly be “a catalyst for action,” helping forge a “path to net zero.”

If you watch the video on the website, it is full of rousing music and bold promises. Rest assured, the summit organizers argue, these promises are not mere rhetoric. They are committed to delivering an accessible and affordable “energy transition” with a global impact.

Wow. Those are bold claims. However, let’s pause for a moment.

There is an old saying that if something sounds too good to be true, it often is. And that is the case here. There is a need to call the summit out for what it is: Utter and total greenwash.

To this end, civil society launched a satirical website called the “Japan Greenwash Summit.” The strapline of the spoof site says the Summit is “Proudly derailing Japan’s energy transition by prioritizing profit over our climate.”

This year is the 25th Anniversary of when the term Greenwash was officially entered into the dictionary, with the definition: “Greenwash – disinformation disseminated by an organization as to present an environmentally responsible image.”

In the decades since, we have seen time and again overstated and underdelivered political and corporate promises concerning our growing climate crisis.

And now politicians and industry are increasingly focused on false solutions that will pour billions into technologies and industries that will not solve the problem and will instead prolong the use of fossil fuels. This is exactly what is happening in Tokyo this week.

The spoof site spells it out as it is: “Overpaid industry lobbyists, policymakers, and ministers will pretend to care about the latest energy market trends while conveniently ignoring their own destructive practices.”

It adds: “Browse thousands of energy products and solutions just rebranded to make the industry look good. With over 4,000 attendees expected, this event is a platform for sourcing solutions (or at least pretending to), showcasing “innovative” ideas and technologies to prolong fossil fuels (because who needs actual innovation when you can just slap a green label on it?)”

So why is civil society targeting the Summit, its host and some of the key corporate sponsors?

Let’s look at Japan’s role in fueling the climate crisis. The country spent at least USD 6.9 billion on new oil, gas, and coal projects each year on average from 2020 to 2022. Japan is one of the world’s largest providers of international public finance of fossil gas and has been driving the expansion of gas across Asia and globally.

A report released by Oil Change International (OCI) and Friends of the Earth United States back in April this year revealed that Japan is the largest financier of upstream fossil fuel exploration and extraction, accounting for almost half of all G20 upstream finance. Japan is also the 3rd largest international fossil fuel financier among G20 governments.

Despite its G7 commitment to end international public finance for fossil fuels by the end of 2022, Japan has continued to pour billions into fossil fuel projects. Since March, the Japanese government has poured over $3.7 billion into new gas and LNG projects in Australia, Mexico and Vietnam.

Some of the world’s largest climate villains, such as Exxon, TotalEnergies and Chevron, will be sponsoring the conference, speaking with slippery, forked tongues about how they will solve the climate crisis.

Just last month, OCI launched its latest “Big Oil Reality Check” report that revealed that all the oil majors are still failing to align with international agreements to phase out fossil fuels and to limit global temperature rise to 1.5ºC.

Other international sponsors include ADNOC, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, widely criticized for its oil and gas expansion plans and ignoring climate science and Cheniere, the largest producer of dirty liquified natural gas in the US.

More local sponsors are also problematic from a climate perspective, such as JERA, Japan’s largest power generation company and one of the world’s biggest LNG importers. Some of JERA’s key-financed projects are profiled on the greenwashing site, not least the Freeport LNG terminal in the U.S. Gulf.

This LNG export terminal exploded two years ago emitting 120,000 cubic feet cubic feet of methane, carbon monoxide, benzene, and other highly toxic chemicals into the air. The explosion sent a fireball some 450 feet into the air. The community warning system, designed to keep workers and the local community safe, was never activated. Many frontline communities close to the plant have serious safety concerns.

“We call on Japanese and all other financiers to reject the construction or expansion of LNG terminals here or anywhere,” said Melanie Oldham, Freeport resident and founder of Better Brazoria. “Despite the green-washing that so-called leaders will be peddling at the Japanese Energy Summit and beyond, we refuse to be a sacrifice zone for the global fossil fuel industry.”

In light of the Summit, civil society is demanding an end to greenwashing and gas expansion. Activists with Fossil Free Japan, one of the leading civil society coalitions working to end Japan’s support for fossil fuels, is calling on the Japanese government and JERA to stop derailing the global transition to clean energy by ending financing and support for fossil fuel projects, including gas and LNG, and to work in partnership with communities to develop renewables-based energy systems.

As well as the Summit, there have already been a number of protests and actions calling out the climate hypocrisy of Japan and the Summit’s sponsors and participants, and its focus on false solutions, like Carbon Capture or Blue Ammonia.

“Japan is bulldozing forward with so-called decarbonization projects that are furthering our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Mia Watanabe, a campaigner from OCI. “We can’t let them get away with this. Countries with tremendous influence and wealth, such as Japan, have an obligation and responsibility to support a fair, fast and funded phase out of fossil fuels and to help speed the development of  sustainable renewable energy solutions.”

 

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