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Date : December 2, 2022

[Report] 2022 2nd FPCJ International Webinar: GX, the Key to Achieving Net Zero by 2050 and Sustainable Growth

post date : 2022.12.16

On Friday, December 2, 2022, Foreign Press Center Japan held a webinar titled “GX, the Key to Achieving Net Zero by 2050 and Sustainable Growth” (supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Keidanren).


GX (green transformation) is important in order to simultaneously achieve economic growth and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as societal reforms occur along with the transition to green energy. This webinar examined how Japan is approaching this shared global issue, what the world thinks of Japan’s approach, and what hopes are being placed on Japan. The FPCJ invited leading figures from the Japanese government, international organizations, the business world, and international media to discuss Japanese initiatives for net zero from an international perspective.


The webinar had an audience of approximately 90 people from Japan and abroad, associated with universities, local governments, businesses, foreign embassies in Japan, Japanese diplomatic missions abroad, and the foreign press.


*For details on the webinar and its panelists, see here.



Summary of Discussion

FPCJ President Kazuo Kodama (Moderator) Opening Remarks 

At the beginning of the webinar, he introduced the speech by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the summit-level meeting of "COP27" held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt in November 2022, in which he expressed his strong sense of crisis over the current situation of ever-increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
In this webinar, he explained that the discussion would focus on what actions are required of the Japanese government, companies, and citizens to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and what the GX(Green Transformation) will entail to make this possible.


<Part 1: Presentations by each panelist>

Mr. Takayuki Shikata, Cabinet Secretary for Public Affairs at the Prime Minister`s Office, explained the Kishida administration's GX and sustainable growth initiatives to realize a decarbonized society. Japanese Government has set a target of virtually zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and in addition to reducing CO2 emissions by 46% from the fiscal 2013 level by FY2030, Japan will take on the challenge of reducing CO2 emissions by 50%, utilize existing nuclear power plants, and replace fossil-fired power generation with ammonia, hydrogen, and other zero-emission thermal power generation to achieve carbon neutrality. In addition, he stated that in Southeast Asian countries, fossil fuels are still expected to be an important source of power even in 2050, and that Japanese Government support for energy transition and decarbonization will be provided while taking into account the potential of each country.

Mr. Masami Hasegawa, Director of Keidanren Environment and Energy Bureau, introduced the "Toward GX," which was compiled by Keidanren in May 2022, and expressed the idea of changing mankind's long relationship with fossil fuels and implementing innovative technologies to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, while also promoting economic growth. The first pillar of the specific recommendations is to secure zero-emission power sources, and the second is to utilize nuclear power. He explained that innovation and transitions are essential to promote these initiatives, and that a package that encourages investment to achieve these goals is a necessity. Since carbon pricing is one of the important issues that cannot be avoided in pursuit of GX, he stated that a mechanism that contributes to growth should be introduced and that the business community was also determined to make utmost efforts to achieve net zero emissions.


Mr. Takejiro Sueyoshi, Special Advisor to the United Nations Environment Programme and Financial Initiative, pointed out that the GX is a "survival game" in which we must abandon the 20th century economic model and create the economic model needed in the 21st century, and if we miss the boat, we will definitely be the losers. He also stressed that if Japan does not become a game changer first, it will become a loser of the war in the second time. He also pointed out that Japan still intends to use nuclear and thermal power for energy in 2050, a goal that cannot be decarbonized, and that the delayed shift to renewables will lead to Made in Japan being seen as black, not green, and therefore not part of the supply chain or value chain. He warned that therefore Japanese products might be evaded by green consumers and the younger generation with a new set of values.


Kana Inagaki, Tokyo Bureau Chief of The Financial Times, noted that Japan has high technological capabilities in areas such as batteries, hydrogen, and CCS, which is promising in the area of energy security, and that Japan would take a pragmatic approach to GX. She noted, however, that even if Japan would provide high-performing technology, its support for coal-fired power generation in Asian countries would be seen as backward-looking. Citing Toyota as an example, she said that the world wanted Toyota to be a pioneer in the next generation of clean technology, as the company pioneered hybrid vehicles. She also suggested that a positive message about how to promote innovation and how to prepare for the shift would be a good idea.


Michelle Lee, Tokyo Bureau Chief of The Washington Post, spoke on GX policy from her perspective of more than a decade of covering U.S. politics. She explained that the U.S. is serious about climate issues, but that public opinion is divided on the strategy. In her coverage of the 2018 and this Year`s U.S midterm elections, she noted that what was interesting issues were the most important issues for young peoples. She also strongly urged that whoever will be the leader of the country should take this issue seriously.


<Interview Session to Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), by FPCJ President Kodama (moderator)

Q1. What is your assessment of COP27, which was held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt from November 6 to 20.

A1. What impressed me most at the conference was the agreement on the creation of a fund to provide relief for "Loss & Damage" caused by climate disasters and other disasters. Since the COP was held in Africa, it was very important for developed countries to launch this fund and pledge financial cooperation.
The second was the bilateral meeting between U.S. President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who agreed to resume cooperation on climate change.


Q2. What is your biggest appeal to the Japanese government, companies, and people?
A2. Japan's energy policy must keep three things in mind. First is energy security, second is climate change, and third is the Japanese economy. From this point of view, I think Japan's GX strategy is very timely. In addition, I believe that Japan should restart nuclear power plants, as it has a great deal of nuclear expertise.


Q3. There is a shift to EV electric vehicles in Europe, the U.S., and China. What do you think about the view that Japan should pursue FCVs and carbon-neutral solutions instead of focusing solely on EVs?
A3. The electric vehicle market is growing at a very fast pace. Currently, 15% of all cars sold in the world are electric, and by 2030, one out of every two cars sold in China, the US, and Europe will be an electric car. In addition to electric vehicles, there are options for low-emission vehicles and hydrogen vehicles, but the penetration rate of electric vehicles appears to be faster than that of hydrogen vehicles.


<Part 2: Panel Discussion>

Mr. Shikata explained that Japan wants to be more aggressive and more proactive in introducing Japanese clean energy technology to Asian countries and is working closely with the US government.

Mr. Hasegawa stated that we are trying to establish new technologies to decarbonize, and that it is important to preserve the way of life and culture that humanity now enjoys.


Mr. Sueyoshi pointed out that competition in business is extremely ruthless, and said that if we talk only about 2050 and do not change our industrial structure, we will be pretty much out of the game in the next five to ten years, and that we cannot survive the competition of the 21st century.


Ms. Inagaki is concerned that we are now debating the role of nuclear power and whether to achieve net zero. She noted that she was "surprised" that there has not been a robust discussion in Japan over the past decade, whether in the government, in general, or in the nuclear industry, about the future of nuclear power.


Ms. Lee explained that what sets the U.S. apart from other countries is that political power is a major force in the industry. She pointed out that political interest in global warming in the U.S. has been declining since the Trump administration, indicating that politics is a problem.


<Question and Answer Session and Closing Session>

At the end of the webinar, we received questions from the general participants, such as “in order to promote GX as the chairing country of the G7 next year, how Japan would initiate discussions on fair conditions for the introduction of renewable energy”, and “whether "70% renewable energy by 2050" is achievable.”

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