Encourage emerging economies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Is it possible to stand united against the threat of climate change? Each country must share a sense of urgency and accelerate their efforts for that purpose.

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) began in Britain and a meeting of world leaders was held. It was the first such leaders meeting in six years, since the Paris Agreement, an international framework to take action against global warming, was adopted in 2015.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attended the meeting and said in his speech that in order for Japan to achieve the target of realizing net-zero emissions by 2050, it would aim to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 46% in fiscal 2030 from its fiscal 2013 levels, declaring the nation would “continue strenuous efforts in its endeavor to meet the lofty goal of cutting its emissions by 50%.”

To this end, it is essential to make every possible effort, through such measures as expanding the use of renewable energy, utilizing nuclear power generation and promoting technological innovation for the use of hydrogen.

At the meeting, the leaders of Western nations also expressed their determination to achieve emissions reduction targets. Reportedly, the current targets set by each country, however, are not enough to stop global warming.

The Paris Agreement aims to limit the increase in the global average temperature to less than 1.5 C by the end of this century, compared to levels in the preindustrial era. However, the United Nations estimates that the global average temperature will rise by 2.7 C if the present situation continues.

Although it is only natural that developed countries, which have been emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases in the past, should fulfill their responsibilities, there is an urgent need to encourage emerging and developing countries, which currently account for about 60% of global emissions, to reduce their emissions.

Regarding the timing of when to achieve the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, China, the world’s largest emitter, and Russia, the fourth-largest, did not change their assertions they will reach net-zero emissions by 2060. India, the third largest emitter, made its first announcement on the issue, but the country said it aims to achieve the goal by 2070. These countries need to step up their efforts.

To support developing nations, developed countries decided in 2009 to annually contribute $100 billion (about ¥11 trillion) through the public and private sectors, but the actual amount of the contribution remains at about $80 billion a year. At the leaders meeting this time, Japan and some other countries pledged to increase the amount. It is hoped that developed countries will implement the pledge steadily.

Technical cooperation would also be effective. It is important for Japan to promote in developing countries technologies such as those related to energy-saving and power-plant efficiency improvement, sectors in which Japan is strong. The approach will also help Japanese companies expand their businesses.

At COP26, which continues through Nov. 12, how to reduce coal-fired power generation, which emits a lot of carbon dioxide, will be a major point of contention.

Britain, which chairs the climate change session, has called for the abolition of coal-fired thermal power generation by 2030, but Japan plans to generate 19% of its electricity from coal in fiscal 2030. Many emerging economies also rely on coal-fired power generation.

The amount of electricity produced by renewable energy sources is unstable and a sudden shift to such power generation carries the risk of a power crisis. Prices of natural gas, crude oil and some other fuels have already soared. It is also necessary to discuss ways to achieve both decarbonization and stable electricity supply.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Nov. 4, 2021.