Opening of COP28 / Boost Momentum of Measures to Combat Global Warming

Extreme climate events such as heat waves, wildfires and floods have been occurring frequently around the world, fueling the sense of urgency over global warming. The hope is that countries will unite and boost momentum for strengthening measures to deal with the situation.

The 28th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change has kicked off in Dubai. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida gave a speech at a top-level meeting and clearly stated that Japan will end new construction of domestic unabated coal-fired power plants.

Coal-fired power generation, which emits large amounts of carbon dioxide, has been criticized around the world in recent years. It is only natural that Kishida made his stance clear that the country will not build any more coal-fired power plants.

Currently, there are no moves to build new coal-fired power plants in Japan, so some may view Kishida’s remarks as merely an acknowledgment of the status quo. The phaseout of overall fossil fuels, including natural gas, will be on the agenda at the conference. More thorough measures are needed.

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the escalating tensions in the Middle East have caused a setback in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in Europe. However, this should be viewed as only a temporary retreat, and the importance of these efforts will not change.

At this conference, a proposal has been made to triple by 2030 the global capacity for renewable energy, including solar power generation.

Kishida endorsed this policy in his speech, but in Japan, the installment of solar panels is already well underway, leaving not much room for additional installations.

Future issues will probably include the expansion of the power grid to accommodate renewable energy between regions and the development of energy storage technology. It is also important to make full use of nuclear power generation, which does not emit carbon dioxide.

It will not be easy for the international community to achieve the goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels. However, all countries are aware of the gravity of the situation, and their commitment to measures to combat global warming has not waned.

There is a growing movement to phase out the use of coal-fired power, particularly in Europe, but it is true that many developing countries have no option but to continue to rely on inexpensive coal-fired power.

Japan is proceeding with efforts to put into practical use technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from thermal power plants by burning coal or natural gas mixed with ammonia or hydrogen. Regarding the developing countries that continue to use fossil fuels, there may be a way for Japan to support them with technology to reduce emissions.

At the conference, an operational policy was also adopted for a fund through which developed countries will provide developing countries with relief for loss and damage caused by global warming. Ways must be found to curb global warming, by overcoming the structure in which developed and developing countries are at odds with each other.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 3, 2023)