From Fukushima to fossil fuels: Carbon emissions, climate narratives, and grassroots movements in Japan's energy transition

May Aye Thiri, Mihály Tamás Borsi

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review


The Fukushima Nuclear Accident triggered an energy predicament in Japan, necessitating initiatives to decarbonise and denuclearise its energy landscape. This shift has intensified reliance on fossil fuels, notably coal, inciting widespread anti-coal disputes throughout the nation. This research scrutinises the dynamics of carbon emissions and their interrelation with climate activism narratives, emphasising the mobilisation of communities to confront issues of inequality and justice. Employing a club convergence methodology, this study analyses the patterns of carbon emissions from fossil fuels across 47 administrative divisions in Japan from 1990 to 2020. This quantitative analysis is enriched with a qualitative content analysis of anti-coal movements, utilising the comprehensive Global Atlas of Environmental Justice (EJAtlas) as a primary resource. The findings disclose pronounced sub-national disparities in energy transitions and carbon emissions. Narratives within anti-coal activism predominantly encompass themes of global warming, air and water pollution, social and cultural impacts, and health repercussions. We find that regions with historically high emissions predominantly embrace narratives of climate and environmental justice, whereas rural regions experiencing escalating emissions integrate these with narratives of peripheralisation. The opposition to technocratic resolutions and the endorsement for transitions to low carbon society are salient within these movements, resonating with the degrowth paradigm advocating for equitable and sustainable alternatives. This research underscores the pivotal role of social movements in mitigating regional emissions disparities and illustrates the evolution of grassroots movements towards embracing sustainable alternatives.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103520
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


  • Carbon emissions
  • Climate activism
  • Energy transition
  • Environmental justice
  • Japan
  • Social movements


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