Decarbonization Must Be Promoted Through Diverse Paths

The Group of Seven (G7) industrialized countries must work together to find diverse ways to promote decarbonization while ensuring stable energy supplies.

The G7 climate, energy and environment ministers held meetings in Sapporo and agreed to phase out the use of unabated fossil fuels.

The phaseout previously had been limited to coal, but the agreement has been expanded to include all fossil fuels, including natural gas.

The G7 nations reaffirmed the importance of “reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by around 60% by 2035, relative to the 2019 level.” This is the amount of reduction necessary to limit temperature increases from preindustrial levels to within 1.5 C, and more stringent measures than ever are required to achieve this goal.

The reaffirmation apparently is a sign that the G7 members share a sense of urgency over the progression of global warming.

However, differences have emerged among the G7 countries over specific measures, such as the time frame for the phaseout and reduction methods.

The United Kingdom and other countries requested an explicit indication of when coal-fired power generation would be phased out. But this request was not realized because of Japan’s opposition.

Japan has few suitable sites for solar and wind power generation, and increasing the production of renewable energy is difficult. It is projected that 19% of its electricity will still come from coal in fiscal 2030.

As a measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Japan proposed a method of mixing ammonia, which does not emit CO2 when burned, with coal, but this was reportedly criticized by the United States and Europe. The dissenters said this idea would lead to the preservation of coal-fired thermal power generation.

In the future, if technology to generate electricity using only ammonia and technology to capture and store CO2 are established, they would be effective measures in holding global warming in check. Japan must make every effort to carefully explain this and gain the understanding of other countries.

Many emerging countries will continue relying on coal-fired power generation for the time being. It is also important for Japan to contribute to the decarbonization of emerging countries using its technology.

In the automotive sector, the G7 nations compromised on a target to reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles in their countries by 50% by 2035 from the 2000 level.

However, the G7 countries were unable to agree on a target for the share of electric vehicles (EVs) in new vehicle sales, a goal the United States and Europe insisted upon. Japan, whose auto industry is strong in producing hybrid vehicles, was reluctant to set a target.

Regarding EVs, the European Union in March revised its policy of banning all new combustion engine-powered vehicles in 2035, announcing that only combustion engine vehicles that use synthetic fuels with low CO2 emissions will be allowed. This reflects Germany’s intentions.

It can be said that each country is exploring realistic paths to decarbonization. It is hoped that the discussion of effective measures will be deepened, and that technological development will be accelerated.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 23, 2023)