On Thursday, November 30, the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change opened in Dubai. Popularly known as COP28, the conference runs through December 12.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is among the world leaders attending the opening summit meeting. Efforts to create a decarbonized society aimed at preventing global warming are inextricably linked to fierce economic competition among various countries. That reality should be borne in mind during the discussions.
The goal of tripling renewable energy sources, such as solar power, by 2030 is expected to be a key theme at the summit-level meeting. That leaders' meeting will set the tone for the conference. United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the chair of this year's COP28 and it has proposed the solar power initiative.
This may appear to be a disadvantageous target for the petroleum-producing UAE. However, thermal power production will remain essential to equalize the uneven generation of power by renewables. The latter are prone to instability as far as the volume of power generated is concerned.
Consequently, global demand for natural gas will not disappear. And for oil-producing countries, expanding renewable energy is a decarbonization policy that is compatible with gas and oil exports.
Consistent with Japan's Circumstances
For Japan, however, it would be extremely difficult to triple the volume of renewable energy. Its land area is limited and there is little room for additional renewable energy facilities.
The government has high hopes for offshore wind power generation. But concerns remain about maintenance at sea in winter and how to deal with lightning strikes.
Moreover, due to delays in restarting nuclear power plants, Japan relies on thermal power generation for 75% of its power supply mix.
Japan is also subject to geopolitical constraints. Nuclear power generation with enhanced safety is the best way to achieve both a stable supply of electricity and decarbonization. But a proactive stance toward restarting nuclear power plants on the part of the Japanese government is absolutely necessary if this is to happen.
At COP28, the degree of progress actually made in reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) will be evaluated as compared to the commitments for reduction by 2030 made by each country. Limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius at the end of this century is the goal. To achieve it, we must reduce GHG emissions by 43% by 2030.
Don't Throw Out Alternative Technologies
According to the COP Secretariat, even if the targets of all the participating countries are pooled together, the decrease only comes to 2%.
Moreover, this summer the world sizzled. Japan has already pledged a high GHG reduction target of 46%. Nonetheless, developing countries are certain to demand even greater emission reductions from developed countries. It would be foolish for Japan to comply with such a demand.
The volume of greenhouse gasses Japan emits does not exceed 3% of the total global emissions. If Japan's high-efficiency technology is introduced, that would pave the way for GHG reductions of an order of magnitude scale. It would help reduce emissions in the old-style coal-fired power generation that is common in Asia,
Wise countries and regions act shrewdly. If the government complies with foreign demands and willy-nilly expands renewable energy and reduces GHG emissions, the national power of Japan will be further diminished. We must not forget that fact.
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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun