Government Greenwash: Coal : Australia and Japan


In my previous blog I discussed the effect of government greenwash in relation to  their carbon position and budget. Comments to the IPCC to tone down parts of its 2021 report are understandably mainly reported in the countries themselves and it is often difficult to see the bigger picture, so in my next three blogs I’m going to focus on coal, meat and oil and what governments around the world have said to water down the report.

The primary comments on coal which have been leaked relate to Australia and Japan.


To quote ABC News Australia

“Documents suggest Australia also asked to be removed from a list of big coal-consuming countries. The draft report said “major coal-consuming countries are still far from phasing out coal”. “China, the US, Australia and South Africa continue to extract and use substantial amounts of coal,” it said. The official in Canberra noted Australia’s consumption was “an order of magnitude lower” than the other countries listed.

Analysis from analytics firm Ember ranks Australia as the world’s 10th biggest coal-fired power generator. Australia remains one of the world’s  biggest biggest coal producers and exporters.”

To state the obvious, Australia has a population of 25.7m people (2020), South Africa 59.3m, USA 333.5m and China 1,446.6m. Given the relative population size it would be surprising if Australia had the same level of consumption as larger countries. But as the chart above showing consumption per head 2019 shows Australia is top dog in terms of coal consumed per head.

I would suggest it is difficult to argue that Australia’s consumption is “an order of magnitude lower” than other countries. Instead, I think most people would say Australia is the largest per capita coal consumer and a major producer and needs to address these issues, not prevaricate and obfuscate.


To quote Unearthed

“Japan, which is hugely reliant on fossil fuels in its energy and transport systems, rejects a key finding in the report’s summary for policymakers detailing how coal and gas fired power stations will, on average, need to be shut down within 9 and 12 years respectively to keep warming below 1.5°C and 16 and 17 years to keep warming below 2°C. A director in Japan’s ministry of foreign affairs claims this paragraph is misleading and suggests deleting it “because the required retirements of fossil fuel power plants due to carbon budget depend on the emissions from other sectors as well as their capacity factor and the opportunities of CCS.””

“Japan also rejects analysis that “the overall potential for CCS and CCU to contribute to mitigation in the electricity sector is now considered lower than was previously thought due to the increased uptake of renewables in preference to fossil fuel”. The official argues that “it would be better to remove this sentence to be more policy neutral.””

I have written in “Zero Carbon our Choice” that fully scaled CCS (needed for power generation by fossil fuel to be net zero) has not been achieved to date. This doesn’t mean, of course, that it won’t be achieved. However, significant work on this has been in progress for 15 years and the usual time lag for scaled up, commercial new technology is 40 to 50 years according to an Imperial College London study (quoted in Zero Carbon Our Choice). To use the “opportunities of CCS” to keep coal power generation operational is bizarre – a Mr Micawber approach of “something may turn up”. At the very least how long does Japan propose we go on hoping for full scale CCS to allow fossil fuels to be used for power generation and still achieve net zero by 2050.

So consider, if I buy a green piece of Japanese technology – made in Japan with fossil fuel power – how green is that technology I’m buying in lifecycle terms?

Of course, this lobbying by countries is to protect economies which are carbon dependent from the effects of decarbonisation. To solve a global issue, carbon dependent economies are going to have to make serious adjustments and start reducing their use of carbon to power and fuel their economies and exports, and they will need to be honest with their populations what these changes entail.

This sort of economic protectionism, the denial of the contribution to global emissions by these countries while other countries decarbonise is exactly what will lead to the call for  border tax adjustments, otherwise carbon dependent economies will gain an economic and trade advantage in not decarbonising. Countries cannot expect to have a free ride in not reducing emissions without consequences (and GAAP permits tariffs for environmental protection).

© Chris Lenon and  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Government Greenwashing

First, an apology, I haven’t posted recently as I’ve been immersed in my divorce which appears to be resolved after a long period of negotiation. So I’m back.

COP 26 is shining a fascinating light on how serious players (be they governments, corporates or individuals) are about achieving net zero by 2050. This should not surprise anyone. The scale of change for many players to move to a net zero economic model is significant, well actually enormous, so attempting to slow the process, soften the impact and confuse the issue is to be expected.

The number of attempts by governments to influence the latest report by the IPCC, is a perfect example. These attempts are about national self interest of those economies where carbon plays a significant part in their economic success. So Coal, Gas and Oil  producer nations will experience a drop in economic activity, a change in their balance of payments, a resulting weakening of their currencies and a fall in taxation receipts when net zero starts to really bite, unless they change.

In my book, Zero Carbon our Choice, I devoted a chapter to the losers from net zero and the impact on geo politics including increasing instability in some regions as carbon becomes less of a source of wealth, unless these countries are able to reinvent their economies for a post carbon world. Africa is an interesting example, while affected by the changes of climate, many African nations are also significant carbon producers of coal, oil and gas, so their response to net zero will be equivocal.

The level of greenwash has scaled new heights. Perhaps best illustrated by Saudi Arabia promising net zero by 2060 but continuing to produce and sell petroleum products. But this greenwash isn’t just about producer nations, but about consumer nations as well. So in the run up to COP26, the EU has prepared its position to encourage other recalcitrant states to promise more, while at the same time moving forward on Nordstream 2 which will transport large quantities of gas to land in Germany and thence be distributed around Europe. This pipeline is a long term project, pipelines have expected lives ranging from 50 to 70 years, so this new pipeline will be functional in 2090.

The Nordstream2 website sets out the rationale:

“By 2035, the EU will need to import about 120 bcm more gas per year

The production outlooks of major gas producers such as Netherlands and UK, as well as Norway, are falling. At the same time, demand for gas is expected to continue, owing to its lower carbon qualities. This means that the EU will need to import more gas. Nord Stream 2 will have the capacity to meet about one third of the EU’s import requirement.”


“The new pipeline could play an important role in the EU’s climate strategy by making competitive supplies of natural gas available to replace high-carbon coal in the energy mix, in addition to providing back-up for intermittent wind and solar power. If the EU is serious about reaching climate goals, then the share of gas in the energy mix needs to increase to eliminate coal burning.”

Japan is investing in new coal powered power stations.

There are many more examples of government greenwash , but the question this poses is that if governments are economical with the truth about their net zero commitments, if they seek to move the debate and the carbon commitments to help their national economic interest, why should they expect either corporates or individuals to act in a different way?

My real concern is that we will see many promises coming from COP 26 which on proper examination will not achieve net zero by 2050. Beware greenwash, there is a lot of it about, whether by governments, corporates or individuals.

Zero carbon – a warning from Switzerland

Despite Orson Welles diatribe about Switzerland in the Third Man, the country is an important and successful economy. So, the recent June 2021 referendum result from Switzerland should be a wake-up call for the Green lobby around the world about zero carbon.

Voters voted against measures to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 51% to 49%. The measures include a tax of airline tickets and a car fuel levy. Opposition was strongest in poorer, rural areas.

My concern is that the referendum result is an example of the failure of the Green lobby to convince citizens of the measures needed to achieve carbon targets, of a complacency and laziness that people will accept measures whatever the cost. Unless this issue is addressed, then we will see further resistance to measures to reduce carbon which affect ordinary people and voters.

It is not as though recent events do not provide examples where citizens have not accepted policies imposed on them. The gilet jaune protests, Brexit and Trump all illustrate that elites should not ignore the ordinary citizen. This appears to have been significant in Switzerland. Being told something is good for you or is necessary is not enough. No matter how many times Sir David Attenborough tells us what we need to do, when the actions start to affect our lifestyles and standard of living, then people will question the remedies proposed, particularly the poorer members of society.

Instead, politicians and green experts need to be honest about the scope of change needed to achieve net zero. They need to be honest about what it will cost an ordinary family and the changes in their lifestyle and standard of living it will engender. They have to get out of the green bubble where the change to net zero is achieved effortlessly. It won’t be. Changing domestic heating, only allowing electric cars and pricing airline flights will all affect the poorest 50% the most. Reconciling reducing carbon and the cost on the poorer is a crucial challenge.

© Chris Lenon and  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Zero Carbon A Challenging Goal


I gave the attached presentation to students and staff at the University of Gloucestershire in March. I have given other presentations to amenity societies tailored to their interests.

What has been interesting is that people are unaware of how much their personal lifestyles will need to change to achieve zero carbon. As my subsequent post will show this is an indictment of politicians and advocates of carbon reduction who have failed to explain the consequences for ordinary people.

There is a real danger of a backlash against proposals a la yellow vests in France.

COP 26 needs to be honest with citizens about the changes as they affect them.