Ms. Hitoko Hirata, a Japanese NGO who has appealed for the impact of coal-fired power plants on global warming, was selected for the "Goldman Environmental Prize," also known as the "Nobel Prize in the field of the environment."

This is the first time a Japanese woman has won the award.

What is the Goldman Environmental Prize?

The Goldman Environmental Prize, established by the American Foundation in 1989, is an international award given to those who have made achievements in environmental protection activities. ..

On the 15th, six winners of this year were announced, and Ms. Hitoko Hirata (50), a director of the environmental NGO "Climate Network" in Kyoto City, was selected as the winner of the "Island Country Category".

This is the third Japanese award for the first time in 23 years and the first for a woman.

Mr. Hirata's activities

Mr. Hirata was interested in the issue of global warming when he was a university student, and has been active as an environmental NGO in Japan for more than 20 years, and has been talking about issues such as coal-fired power plants that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases.

When 50 coal-fired power plants are planned to be newly constructed or expanded after the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, plans for these power plants and materials for environmental impact assessment will be published on the website, as well as materials for environmental impact assessment. We encouraged local residents to attend the hearing.

The reason for this award was that Mr. Hirata's activities triggered the cancellation of plans for 13 out of 50 vehicles by 2019. It is equivalent to the reduction. "

Regarding the award, Mr. Hirata said, "I think that it was possible to make a big move because there were people who raised their voices on this issue, not just me. How can we shift society and the economy toward a cleaner direction? I would like to continue to make proposals, thinking about whether I can go. "

The reason why Mr. Hirata was chosen

The reason for this award is that Mr. Hirata made a shareholder proposal in order to lead to the "decoalization" of financial institutions.

Last year, with the cooperation of overseas environmental groups, Mr. Hirata made a shareholder proposal to Mizuho Financial Group, pointing out the risks of the coal-fired power generation business and requesting disclosure of future policies.

Shareholder proposals for climate change-related information disclosure are increasing overseas, but

this seems to be the first time in Japan, with 34.5% approval at the general meeting of shareholders.

Mr. Hirata made a similar proposal at the general meeting of shareholders of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group held this month, and the focus is on how much approval he can get.

The reason for receiving the Goldman Environmental Prize is that Mr. Hirata's series of efforts has created a great momentum for many Japanese companies to break away from coal.

Mr. Hirata said, "Governments and companies in other countries have changed their policies to coal removal, but Japan is finally beginning to notice the problem of coal. Among Japanese companies, they recognize that they must switch from coal. However, I feel that some companies are seriously taking steps to change their business plans. I think it is now being questioned whether they can be prepared and act at a speed that is in line with the fight against climate change. " I'm talking to you.

Past Japanese winners

Two Japanese have won the Goldman Environmental Prize so far.

The first was Yoichi Kuroda, the secretary general of the environmental protection organization "Tropical Forest Action Network", which was awarded in 1991. He worked on the protection of tropical forests in Asia and appealed to the government and companies to reduce the amount of timber imports. Was evaluated.

The second is Mr. Hirofumi Yamashita, who opposed the reclamation project in Isahaya Bay, Nagasaki Prefecture and worked on the protection of tidal flats, and received the award in 1998.

Accelerated de-coal movement in the world

Since the conclusion of the Paris Agreement, an international framework for global warming countermeasures, in 2015, efforts for "decarbonization" and "decoalization" have been accelerating around the world.

In particular, in recent years, “ESG investment” that emphasizes efforts to address environmental and social issues has spread when selecting investment destinations, and there have been a series of movements around the world to review policies related to coal-fired power generation. I will.

In 2017, France's BNP Paribas and in 2018, the UK's Standard Chartered Bank announced that they would stop financing new coal-fired power plants.

In addition, BlackRock, the world's largest American asset management company, announced last year that it would release shares in companies with high incomes from the coal business.

In addition, shareholders are calling for stronger climate change countermeasures.

From last year onwards, institutional investors and others have urged British financial giants Barclays and HSBC to disclose their policies on climate change and reduce fossil fuel lending.

At a shareholders' meeting of ExxonMobil, an American giant oil company called Super Major, last month, an emerging investment company with a 0.02% stake claimed that its management was inadequately prepared for climate change. A proposal was submitted requesting the appointment of a recommended director.

Despite opposition from the company, three of the four nominations were appointed and local media reported that they were "historically defeated by the oil giant."

Under these circumstances, environmentally conscious movements are spreading in Japan as well, such as the announcement that banks, insurance companies, trading companies, etc. will not finance or develop new coal-fired power generation businesses.

Mr. Shuichi Osawa of the ESG Research Division of Daiwa Securities, who is familiar with corporate information disclosure, said, "Shareholders have been giving opinions on compensation to management at general meetings of shareholders, but recently, in an era when they are talking about climate change. It is changing. From now on, climate change will play a major role in dialogue between companies and shareholders not only in finance but also in fields such as steel, energy, and chemistry, which use a lot of fossil fuels. " ..

Japan's coal-fired power is subject to criticism in the world

The ratio of coal-fired power generation to the total power generation in Japan has increased in the form of replacing nuclear power after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, and has continued to be more than 30% since FY2012.

According to the summary of the IEA = International Energy Agency, Japan has the highest ratio of coal-fired power generation among the seven major countries in FY2019.

In addition, only Japan and the United States have set a goal of zero domestic coal-fired power generation in the G7.

Furthermore, although Japan is limited to highly efficient facilities, it has indicated a policy of allowing public financing for the export of coal-fired power plants, and there is a move to phase out coal-fired power plants mainly in Europe. As it spreads, there are

criticisms of Japan

in the international community