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Poland and Japan to bolster cooperation on low-carbon energy amidst global criticism

Warsaw, Poland – As world leaders gather in Davos to discuss global issues, Poland Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and his counterpart Shinzo Abe from Japan announced on Tuesday in Tokyo that their two countries would step up cooperation on low-carbon energy, such as hydrogen and nuclear power.

Poland and Japan strengthen cooperation in energy

Morawiecki, who is visiting the country for the first time as Prime Minister for a summit aimed at strengthening strategic partnership between Poland and Japan, stated at a joint news conference with Abe that further cooperation on energy was “desirable”, taking into account both countries’ dependence on coal.

“I’d like to make our bilateral relations more robust with Prime Minister Morawiecki and contribute as strategic partners to regional and global peace and prosperity”, Shinzo Abe said.

“We agreed to coordinate our efforts to maintain the rules-based international order and cooperation between Japan and the Visegrad Four”, he added, thereby including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki met Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. Credit: Behrouz MEHRI / POOL / AFP.

Poland’s long and winding road to green energy and climate neutrality

After its coal reliance has put the country at odds with the EU’s goal to reach climate neutrality by 2050, it was announced last week that Poland will be the top beneficiary of the €100-billion EU climate fund meant to help coal-reliant regions move away from fossil fuels and towards a greener economy and more sustainable energy mix.

This comes only a few months after Poland and France crossed swords over comments made by the French President Emmanuel Macron criticizing Warsaw’s lack of commitment to tackling climate change. Poland was indeed the only country not to take part in the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality goal last year, originally opposed by four countries (including the Czech Republic and Hungary). The other countries eventually signed up to the EU’s goal to achieve carbon-emission neutrality by mid-century, leaving Poland as the only country to negotiate an opt-out.

While Poland’s Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski claimed last year that it was “a fantasy” to try to reach net zero emissions by 2050, a recent World Wildlife Fund (WWF) study has shown that Poland’s path to climate neutrality and zero net emissions is both “affordable and feasible”.

Last week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban unveiled the government’s climate and environmental strategy, an ambitious plan the Hungarian Premier has gone to great lengths to describe as a “Christian-democratic approach” to tackling climate change.

The 2011 Fukushima disaster has hampered Japan’s plan to reduce its dependence on coal.

Japan’s post-Fukushima coal revival

Much like Poland, Japan has drawn a lot of criticism from both in and outside the country for going against the international trend of moving away from coal-fired energy production that emits more than double the carbon dioxide generated by liquid natural gas-fueled plants.

Japan is poor in resources such as oil and natural gas. The country built numerous coal-fired power plants in the aftermath of the “oil shock” of the 1970s in order to reduce its reliance on oil and diversify its energy sources. As climate change issues grew in importance, the government sought to increase reliance on nuclear power and to reduce its dependence on coal. However, the 2011 Fukushima disaster has severly hampered those plans.

From 2016 to 2018 the nation fired up at least eight new coal power plants. This coal revival is seen by many as having alarming implications for air pollution and Japan’s ability to meet its pledges to cut greenhouse gases.

Tokyo and Warsaw celebrated their 100th year of diplomatic ties last year.