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Magazine Articles of the Month: Decarbonization Revolution

post date : 2022.03.03

As shown by the expression “the decarbonization revolution” appearing in the Japanese media, the push toward decarbonization has become an irreversible global trend. The official document released at COP26 (26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), held in Glasgow in November 2021, clearly stated a target of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. Countries agreed to take ambitious measures to meet this target, and also a transitional target in 2030, toward the final goal of carbon neutrality in 2050. What should Japan do? The monthly magazines engaged in lively discussion over this topic.



■“Japan’s decarbonization strategy and challenges—considering the trends of COP26,” Kyoko Gendatsu, NHK Enterprises Executive Producer (Gaiko, January/February, Vol. 71)

Gendatsu praised the COP26 as a historical meeting due to the agreement clearly mentioning 1.5 degrees and reducing reliance on coal power. She also argued that while Japan is now targeting carbon neutrality by 2050, few people seem aware that the real challenge will be halving CO2 emissions by 2030, and called for responding with the same speed that would be used in an emergency.


Regarding the 1.5 degrees target, Gendatsu also noted that if other countries all fulfilled their promises, an increase of 2.4 degrees would still be expected, and so it would not be achieved. She approved of the significant progress made in making reforms to protect biodiversity, such as with the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use. She explained the necessity of utilizing the power of nature such as forests and oceans to absorb CO2, instead of just relying on the power of humanity.


Gendatsu noted concerns that Japan’s plan to achieve zero emissions for thermal power generation by using ammonia and hydrogen could be considered as extending the lifespan of coal power, and argued Japan should accelerate its shift to renewable energy and create a concrete roadmap for decarbonization. She also stressed the need to implement carbon pricing as soon as possible, warning that the time will come when industrial competitiveness will not be possible without appropriate carbon pricing via life cycle assessment (LCA) of products.



■“‘Japan-style carbon neutrality’ starting from Hiroshima,” Hidehiko Yuzaki, Governor of Hiroshima/Mitsuru Izumo, Euglena Co., Ltd. President (Voice, March)


According to Yuzaki, Hiroshima Prefecture has accepted the global trend toward decarbonization as a real problem, due to the prefecture having active manufacturing industries which produce CO2 emissions, such as steel, chemicals, and automobiles. He also stressed that the decarbonization revolution will be an epoch-making major change, and with the right initiatives and perspective it could be made into an opportunity. The governor argued that one of the reasons Japan has continually failed at innovation is insufficient investment, and that a system to make high-risk investments in areas with potential for growth is necessary. He stated that with the EU implementing its Green Deal and moving to a circular economy, taking the lead in forming environmental rules, Japan should also rediscover its own strengths and take part in developing international rules and targets.


Izumo stated that Euglena was serious about aiming for “Japan-style carbon neutrality,” and mentioned the company is developing biofuel that can be used with existing internal combustion engines, and increasing its collaborations with Hiroshima organizations and businesses including Mazda. He also explained an initiative was underway to have automobiles and cruisers in the Seto Inland Sea use Susteo, a next-generation biodiesel fuel made with used cooking oil and algae such as Euglena. He noted that in order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, CO2 emissions would need to be cut by 48% by 2030. Izumo suggested that improving automobile fuel consumption by 30% and increasing Susteo’s share to 30% would help approach that goal, allowing Hiroshima Prefecture to create an example for others to follow.



■“The decarbonization revolution is a chance for Japanese companies to make a comeback,” Kazuhiko Toyama, IGPI Group Chairman (Voice, February)


Toyama declared that the response to climate change, targeting carbon neutrality by 2050, was a great chance for Japan to make a comeback. Having lost twice in a row with globalization and digital transformation (DX), in this new green transformation (GX) battle businesses will need to rebuild their global supply chains and value chains to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to that end the use of digital technology will need to be accelerated as well. GX will inevitability lead to progress in globalization and DX, two areas in which Japan was a step behind the rest of the world. He stated that since GX is also an energy problem, the battle will not be in the digital world, but in the real world, involving the heat and mass which Japanese businesses are skilled with, and so Japanese businesses will be able to take advantage of their strengths.


Toyama suggested that business models would need to change regardless of the industry or the size of the company, and business operators should be prepared to break existing models. He argued that it was necessary to reconsider how companies are structured, how decisions are made, and the capabilities of organizations and individuals. He also noted that DX in Japan only increased the productivity of a small number of elites working at global companies, but from now on it will be the age of DX for local businesses, with many cutting-edge technologies being applied to services for reality-based industries such as the restaurant and hotel industries. Toyama declared that to benefit from the fruits of innovation related to GX, the productivity of Japan as a whole must be increased, and that with the develop of communications technology, the future would not be an age of overconcentration in big cities, but an age of regional cities with a lower burden on their local environment.



■“The European Green Deal and Japan’s future,” Hikaru Hiranuma, The Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research Senior Fellow (Voice, February)


Not only is the EU carrying out an energy transition, it is also increasing resource efficiency by promoting recycling and reusing, and has begun initiatives to build a circular economy (CE) that will allow both economic growth and preserving the environment. Japan is behind in its energy transition, with renewable energy accounting for approximately 18% of the energy share in the 2019 fiscal year. Hiranuma warned that not only would Japan lose its presence in climate change issues, it was also at risk of losing international competitiveness through market loss. The EU’s Green Deal places the utmost importance on managing waste and reusing it as resources in order to create a CE, and he warned that Japan could face an even greater impact to international competitiveness if the EU takes the lead in making CE international standards.


Hiranuma argued that although right now Japan has fallen behind the world in energy transition and CE, this should be seen as a chance to escape from Japan’s reliance on other countries for resource-based energy. Energy could be transitioned from a reliance on overseas fossil fuels to domestic renewables, and for the CE, the economic model could be encouraged to shift from foreign natural resources to a cycle using recycled resources within Japan. According to estimates by the Ministry of the Environment, considering economic feasibility, there is potential for renewable energy equal to up to twice Japan’s annual electricity supply, so Japan has more than enough renewable energy resources. Japan also has the most patents related to renewable energy technologies in the world (from 2010 to 2019). Hiranuma concluded that by becoming a pioneer in providing highly recyclable and reusable products, Japan would be able to have a say in creating international CE standards.


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