Concrete measures to cut emissions must be implemented post-COP26

The fight against global warming has entered the stage where countries are not only competing with each other to set high targets, but also trying to figure out how to achieve those goals. Countries need to take concrete steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), which was held in Glasgow, has wrapped up.

At the conference, India unveiled a new policy to reduce its emissions to net zero by 2070, among other announcements. And the agreement document “resolves to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 C” above preindustrial levels by the end of this century.

The Paris Agreement, an international framework for combating global warming adopted in 2015, had aimed for a temperature rise well below 2 C and with efforts to limit the rise close to 1.5 C. It is commendable that it has set a higher target in the foreground and indicated the path the world should take.

The focus in producing the latest agreement was on the treatment of coal-fired power plants, which emit a large amount of carbon dioxide. The president’s draft of the document initially included the idea of “phasing out” coal-fired power plants, but due to opposition from emerging economies, a settlement was reached to use the phrase “the phasedown of unabated coal power.”

The conflict between Europe and other countries that have already achieved economic growth and are in the process of shifting to renewable energy sources and emerging and developing countries that rely on coal-fired power, which can supply large amounts of inexpensive electricity, has also become more conspicuous. It is important to overcome these differences in position and share a sense of crisis.

Japan plans to depend on coal to supply 19% of its electricity in fiscal 2030. At the conference, some criticized this as a backward step, but unlike Europe, Japan has few suitable sites for solar and wind power generation, and it is difficult to improve the current situation in Japan, where the restart of nuclear power plants has not been progressing.

Instead of flatly denying coal-fire power generation, it is important to substantially promote practical CO2 emissions reduction through mixed combustion with ammonia and establishing technologies to capture and store the emitted CO2. Such technologies will also likely be effective in providing assistance to countries in Southeast Asia and other regions.

At this conference, rules were established to allow developed countries to count as their own reductions the amount they help developing countries reduce. It is important for Japan to reduce its emissions while utilizing the mechanism of emissions trading.

While the COP26 conference was being held, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France will resume the construction of new nuclear power plants. Output from renewable energy tends to be affected by the weather, so securing a stable backup power source is indispensable.

The advantage of nuclear power plants is that they do not emit CO2 and are expected to steadily help reduce emissions. The Japanese government should make clear its policy of actively utilizing nuclear power plants, including construction of new power plants and adding new reactors to existing ones.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Nov. 16, 2021.