US climate envoy John Kerry. Picture: DIMITAR DIKOFF/REUTERS
US climate envoy John Kerry. Picture: DIMITAR DIKOFF/REUTERS

Tokyo/Washington — US climate envoy John Kerry arrived in Tokyo for talks on Tuesday with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on co-operation on carbon emissions and cutting support for fossil fuels, especially coal, before heading to China.

Talks with the two Asian economic powerhouses will be “to engage with international counterparts on efforts to address the climate crisis”, the US State Department said in a statement.

The former secretary of state has led US efforts to convince the global community of the threat of climate change and urge the acceleration of efforts to curb carbon emissions. The US push comes in advance of the UN COP26 climate conference, which will be held in Scotland later this year.

In Japan, discussions are likely to focus on the country’s continued support for coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. Japan is the only G7 country building coal-fired power stations as it struggles with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which led to the shutdown of most of the country’s reactors.

In April, Japan almost doubled its target for emissions cuts by 2030 to a reduction of 46% in response to pressure from the US and some of its own firms, after pledging last year to attain carbon neutrality by 2050.

“Japan made some tough decisions,” Kerry told environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi, referring to the targets.

Koizumi told Kerry that the months leading up to COP26 are “critically important and we need to intensify our efforts to tackle climate change,” local media reported.

In China, Kerry will hope to build on commitments secured during a visit in April that the country will work urgently to curb climate change.

Kerry’s visits come after the US Treasury said earlier this month that America would oppose most involvement of multilateral development banks such as the World Bank in fossil fuel projects.

Discussions in Tokyo are also likely to focus on plans by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to organise and develop a scheme to acquire coal-fired power plants and shut them down early.

The effort, first reported by Reuters, includes British insurer Prudential, lenders Citigroup and HSBC Holdings and BlackRock Real Assets, with ambitions for an initial purchase in 2022.

Japan is the largest shareholder of the ADB and support from Tokyo will be crucial to any success for the plans.

China, the US and Japan are the world’s biggest, second- and fifth-biggest carbon emitters.

China has pledged to “enhance ambition” on curbing climate change, and is set to announce new measures before the end of the year.

Activists are watching for any new pledge on coal, with many hoping that Beijing will stop financing overseas coal-fired power plants.

Amid political tension between the two sides, the US has tried to ring-fence climate issues and Kerry has no remit to discuss any other topics with China.

Reuters

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