Today in Lima, Japan won Climate Action Network’s (CAN) Fossil of the Day Award. CAN gives this award to countries based on their performances during the past day’s negotiations at the United Nations (UN) climate change conferences. Japan won the Fossil of the Day Award for “getting busted for funding coal and gas power stations in developing countries, in particular Indonesia, with money meant for scaling up climate action.” This slightly sarcastic yet highly prestigious award brings to light current issues, and hopes to publicly motivate the named recipient into climate action.
Japan gave Indonesia $1 billion in loans to build three coal-fired power plants in the name of climate finance under the United Nations. Japan says these plants burn coal more efficiently and are therefore cleaner than old coal plants. However, they still emit twice as much heat-trapping carbon as plants running on natural gas, and are the biggest human source of carbon pollution.
Outside of naming the clear Fossil Day Award winner, CAN highlighted an overarching issue regarding climate finance. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has no definition of what climate finance is and there is no watchdog agency that ensures the climate finance funds are spent in the most effect way. Japan allocated the funding to Japanese companies under UN loans described as “thermal power plants,” with no indication that they were coal-fired projects.
There are no rules against counting such projects as climate finance under the United Nations. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, unaware that the Japanese-funded coal plants in Indonesia were labeled as climate finance, stated “there is no argument” for supporting such projects with climate money. “Unabated coal has no room in the future energy system,” she told AP News.
CAN, a worldwide network of over 900 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in more than 100 countries, continues to promote government action to limit human-induced climate change by bringing theses issues to light.
The Green Climate Fund, which has similar goals to help poorer nations adapt to the warming climate, also has no watchdog agency or formal definition of climate finance.The power of “public shaming” presented by CAN’s Fossil of the Day Award, not only galvanizes climate action commitments, but instills a new fire within climate activists.