Energy Shift Southeast Asia

Statement of the Southeast Asia Working Group on the Commemorative Summit for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation

As leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Japan meet in Tokyo to celebrate 50 years of cooperation, we urge the Japanese government to use this golden opportunity to stop the financing and promotion of fossil fuels and dangerous distractions in Southeast Asia’s path to a clean and renewable energy future.

ASEAN was founded in the spirit of peace, unity, and prosperity by promoting sustainable development to protect its environment, natural resources, cultural heritage, and people’s quality of life. Today, ASEAN members face a critical juncture: the potential of massively advancing renewable energy in the region to benefit its people and the environment or continued and expanded dependence on fossil fuels, especially gas, in the face of an intensifying climate crisis. The Japanese government, despite its supposed commitment to a clean energy transition and the development of this region, is culprit to the latter.

Since the Paris Agreement was signed, Japanese public and private financial institutions have continued to pour funds to fossil gas projects and developers in Southeast Asia. In a report, four Japanese banks (Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), Sumitomo Mitsui, Mizuho Financial Group, Mitsubishi UFJ) have combined funding of USD 9.7 billion towards fossil gas projects, and are among the top 10 biggest financiers of gas in SEA.

During COP28, Japan Prime Minister Kishida pledged to triple renewable energy, alongside over 120 other countries. While this can lead to great strides in the energy transition, a renewable energy transition will serve toward keeping the 1.5 degree C climate goal only if it is pursued in displacement of all fossil fuels – coal, gas, and oil. Japan’s pledge must thus not be viewed in silos from the glaring contradiction of its role in Southeast Asia’s gas buildout.

While Japan touts carbon capture and storage (CCS), ammonia, and hydrogen as solutions to assist ASEAN in decarbonization, we reject these dangerous distractions as they only, in fact, prolong the use of fossil fuels. SEA is a region ripe with renewable energy potential which Japan must support, not derail. It is self-defeating for Japan to advocate for clean energy domestically while investing in fossil fuels abroad. Japan’s dual narrative is a contradiction to the global urgency for a cohesive climate strategy.

For Japan to genuinely value its friendship with ASEAN, it must support a genuine, just, and rapid 100% renewable energy transition and commit to the phase-out of the use and financing of fossil fuels. The pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and commitments it has signed cannot be achieved as long as fossil fuels continue to be financed and used.