Make Use of Japanese Technology in Asia’s Emerging Nations

To achieve global decarbonization, it will be necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Southeast Asia, which is experiencing economic growth. Japan, which has close ties with Southeast Asia, must provide effective support measures for that purpose.

The Paris Agreement, an international framework to combat climate change, established a goal to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 C above preindustrial levels.

To achieve this goal, many countries, including Japan, aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to virtually zero by 2050.

However, there is deep-rooted dissatisfaction among emerging countries with developed countries, which have grown by emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide. It is essential for developed nations to promote decarbonization in emerging countries, in terms of funding and technology.

In that regard, it is important for Japan to support the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes countries that are geographically close to Japan and with which Tokyo has strong economic ties.

Many ASEAN members have also set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to virtually zero by 2050. However, demand for electricity in the bloc will be nearly triple the current level in 2050 as a result of economic growth, according to one estimate.

ASEAN members also are making efforts to use renewable energy, but most of them have little flat land suitable for solar power generation. Currently, they have to rely on low-cost coal-fired power generation.

Europe and the United States are calling for a swift phaseout of coal-fired power generation, but this cannot be said to be realistic in Southeast Asia.

It is hoped that the region will make use of Japanese technology. Japan has been developing coal-fired and natural gas-fired power generation technologies that add ammonia and hydrogen, respectively, to the original basic fuels. Ammonia and hydrogen do not emit carbon dioxide when burned. Japan also is focusing on the practical application of technology to collect carbon dioxide and store it underground.

Development of such technologies has already begun through cooperation between the public and private sectors. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. is planning to introduce thermal power generation that uses fuels containing hydrogen and ammonia in collaboration with a local Indonesian company.

The government’s Japan Organization for Metals and Energy Security intends to work with a Vietnamese state-owned oil company on a project to capture and store carbon dioxide emitted from thermal power generation and other forms of power generation.

It is regrettable that Europe and the United States have criticized such moves as measures to extend the life of coal-fired thermal power generation. Measures against global warming will also be an important theme at the summit of the Group of Seven advanced nations, which starts in Hiroshima City on May 19. It is hoped that specific steps to deal with global warming will be discussed at such gatherings as G7 summits.

Japan needs to gain the understanding of summit participants by clearly explaining that its technology is effective for decarbonization, including its support for ASEAN members. Based on such efforts, Japan must accelerate technological development to steadily reduce carbon dioxide emissions and produce tangible results.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 12, 2023)