Why Does Japan Always Get Fossil Award? and Why Not China?

Yomiuri Shimbun file photos
The Japanese flag

Dubai (Jiji Press)—Japan is a regular recipient of the Fossil of the Day award from a global network of nongovernmental environmental groups, whereas China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, rarely receives the infamous award.

During the ongoing COP28 climate conference in Dubai, Climate Action Network has picked Japan twice for the fossil award, indicating that the country’s efforts to tackle climate change are inadequate.

The main reason for Japan’s selection is its continued use of coal-fired power plants, which emit large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Instead of abolishing exiting coal-fired power plants, the Japanese government plans to actively use technology to mix fuel with ammonia, which does not produce carbon dioxide when burned.

At a summit-level meeting at COP28 on Dec. 1, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed that Japan will contribute to global decarbonization efforts with this technology. However, CAN criticized Japan for “greenwashing,” or pretending to be environmentally friendly.

“We have accumulated achievements in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but why don’t they understand?” a Japanese government delegate lamented.

On the other hand, China has almost no history of receiving the infamous award. According to CAN, the last time China received the award was at the COP19 conference in 2013. Among other emerging economies, India and Brazil have been selected for the award several times.

Advanced economies are largely responsible for climate change, given their long history of using fossil fuels. But as greenhouse gas emissions from emerging economies are increasing, global efforts are needed to address the challenge.

“China is now the world’s second largest economy, but it still acts like a developing country at COP meetings,” a Japanese government official complained. “I wonder if this is a responsible attitude.”

Analyzing the reason why China is not selected for the fossil award, an ICAN official said that giving the award to China could irritate Beijing, possibly leading to a crackdown on environmental groups in the country.

The ICAN official added that the fossil award reflects not just criticism but also hopes for improvement. “We want (Japan) to contribute more to the world.”