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Japanese engineering giant Toshiba Corp will not build any more coal-fired power plants and will shift to renewable energy in a bid to reduce greenhouse emissions, company president Nobuaki Kurumatani said yesterday.

However, none of its existing coal-power construction projects will be scrapped, said Toshiba, which has about 10 under way worldwide.

“We will stop accepting new orders to build coal-fired plants, and seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030,” Kurumatani told reporters.

Protesters hold up placards as they take part in call for action on climate change in Tokyo on Nov. 29 last year.
Photo: AFP

He said that the company is to increase investment in renewable energy — including infrastructure for offshore wind-power and solar-power facilities, and research and development in related fields.

The announcement comes just weeks after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga set a 2050 deadline for the world’s third-largest economy to become carbon-neutral.

Suga’s target date firmed up the nation’s previous climate-change commitments, as it plays catch-up with similar pledges made by other major economies.

Kurumatani said that business opportunities could arise from the Paris climate accord, which US president-elect Joe Biden has vowed to rejoin after US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal.

As well as selling mega solar and hydropower plants, “we plan to pour our resources into wind power and to produce cutting-edge windmills,” he said.

Germany’s Siemens Energy and General Electric Co of the US have made similar commitments to stop building new coal-fired power stations.

Greenpeace welcomed the move, with its climate and energy campaigner Daniel Read calling the news “heartening,” but emphasizing that “much work still remains.”

“A complete separation from coal, both new and existing projects, and moving wholly to renewables is the only option that makes long-term sense, both financially and environmentally,” he said in a statement.

Read warned against relying on nuclear power to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, saying it is not a “viable alternative.”

Japan, which is a signatory to the Paris agreement, has struggled to cut carbon emissions after shutting down reactors after the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Reliance on fossil fuels such as coal increased after that, as public anger over the accident pushed all of the nation’s reactors offline temporarily.

Japan’s 140 coal-fired power plants provide nearly a third of its total electricity generation.

Coal is the second-biggest power-generation method behind liquefied natural gas-fired plants.