A parade of inflatable yellow Pikachu’s has blocked traffic in-front of the Japanese embassy in Manila with the hope of drawing the spotlight on the Asian giant’s role in funding major fossil fuel projects around the world.

The protest come ahead of a critical G20 meeting, where Japan as the host, has already been blamed for bowing to US pressure to keep the Climate Emergency off the agenda.

A draft agenda document for G20 meeting omits key climate talking points like “decarbonisation” and looks to have significantly reduced the focus on fulfilling the Paris Agreement.

Photo: AC Dimatatac

This perceived back step may come as a shock to many. In September last year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wrote a chilling opinion piece in the UK’s Financial Times:

“Climate change can be life-threatening to all generations, be it the elderly or the young and in developed and developing countries alike. The problem is exacerbating more quickly than we expected. We must take more robust actions. And swiftly.”

In it, he also clearly understood the power of the Presidency when he noted that “Japan will preside over the G20 next year and focus on accelerating the virtuous cycle of environmental protection and economic growth”.

“The way forward is clear. We must save both the green of the earth and the blue of its oceans,” stated Abe.

This was later followed up with a speech at the World Economic Forum in February that gave many the confidence that he would be able to push on as G20 climate leader when he argued that “we NEED(s) disruptions”.

Unfortunately it now seems likely that he hasn’t taken his message of hope to President Trump’s team, ahead of a wave of Democratic candidates who have released revolutionary climate plans on the back of popular support.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Greenpeace International’s Jenifer Morgan  characterised  agenda adjustments as “a complete lack of political leadership.”

But for those tracking international coal financing, Japan’s double-sided coin flip as a climate temporary climate leader comes as no surprise.

“Japan is the second biggest public funder of coal projects worldwide and continues to provide cover for private banks to do the same” said Norly Grace Mercado, the Regional Director for 350.org.

In the Philippines alone, Japan’s private sector is behind at least 6 different coal plants. This includes the coal plants in Bataan, Pagbilao, Batangas, Quezon and Calaca. Many of these coal plants are co-owned or now acquired by Filipino conglomerates such San Miguel Corporation (better known for their beers) and the Ayala Corporation (famous for their Malls, and the entire city of Makati).

Standing in solidarity with the big yellow Pikachu’s, Mercado connected Japan’s innovative history with the action.

“Pokemon’s enduring popularity stands as proof of Japan’s capacity for technology, innovation and creativity, which is why we believe the country can evolve into a world leader in climate action and renewable energy”.

However, Mercado warns that “if Japan wants to become a climate leader instead of a laggard, then its government must definitively phase out coal domestically and overseas.”

This week at the UN climate talks in Germany, the issue of international fossil fuel finance has barely come up.

But with more than 6 hours of discussions today on the role of international finance to support developing countries adapt to climate emergencies; you can’t help but wonder how much easier those discussions might be, if Japan’s overseas investments didn’t actively make the problem worse.

As Prime Minister Abe stated in February, “decarbonisation and profit making can happen in tandem.”

Chris Wright

About Chris Wright

Co-founder and Director of Climate Tracker. Based in Borneo. Trail Running convert.