Dr Leslie James Mabon
Robert Gordon University, UK
Governing the low-carbon energy transition in fossil fuel-dependent coastal regions: a comparativestudy of Iwaki and Iburi in Japan
The project evaluates how two former coal-mining coastal regions in Japan – Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture, and Iburi in Hokkaido – face the challenge of balancing the short-term employment and economic benefits that continue to be derived from fossil fuels, with the longer-term imperative to establish a sustainable economic base for the region and contribute to national and international climate change mitigation objectives. In Iwaki, the regional government’s drive to deploy renewable energy (offshore wind energy and biomass) comes at the same time as the proposed expansion of two coal-fired power stations led by the national government, and ongoing concern over risks posed by coastal energy infrastructure after the region received contamination from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. In Iburi, meanwhile, expansion in mega-solar and offshore carbon dioxide storage trials are taking place alongside a continued reliance on oil refining and metal production, against a bigger backdrop of relatively recent the decline of Japan’s coal mining industry. At the same time, both Iwaki and Iburi feel the effects of change in the marine environment, Iwaki due to radioactive contamination from the Fukushima accident and Iburi due to climate changes altering the marine ecosystem. The Iwaki and Iburi regions therefore provide a challenging test case for some of the complexities moving to a low-carbon economy may pose for regional development, and apply the emerging concept of a ‘managed transition’ from fossil fuel industries to the Japanese context.