Japan Hopes to Boost Central Asian States’ Decarbonization Efforts

The Yomirui Shimbun

The government intends to strengthen decarbonization-related ties with five Central Asian countries by signing a memorandum of cooperation. Moving alongside the government’s plan, Japanese firms will help governments and businesses in the five nations introduce renewable energy and energy-saving technologies.

Five countries in Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — are rich in natural resources, and neighboring nations China and Russia have been increasing their presence in the area.

With Group of Seven countries also keen to boost ties with Central Asia, Japan hopes to differentiate itself from China and Russia through its environmental technologies, an area in which it is an acknowledged leader.

Japan hopes to sign the memorandum with the governments of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in the fields of economy and energy as early as January. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Ken Saito plans to meet relevant ministers of the two countries. Japan is also expected to sign similar agreements with Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Based on the memorandum, Japan will agree to promote and enhance cooperation aimed at decarbonizing the five countries.

Because thermal power accounts for a high share of electricity generation in these nations, the Japanese government is considering proposing the use of renewable energy; hydrogen and ammonia, which do not emit carbon dioxide when burned; and energy-saving technologies. The government also plans to help the five countries draw up a schedule for their decarbonization.

In keeping with intergovernmental cooperation, Japanese businesses are also expected to start taking concrete steps to collaborate with respective governments and local businesses.

In Uzbekistan, Toyota Tsusho Corp. is expected to begin survey operations with the aim of introducing domestic wind power into the country through Eurus Energy Holdings Corp., a wind power energy company under its wing. For its part, Sojitz Corp. plans to start construction work aimed at converting thermal energy plants into more efficient facilities in cooperation with Electricite de France, a France-based electricity producer, and others.

In Kazakhstan, Yokogawa Electric Corp. and Marubeni Corp. plan to begin negotiations on energy-saving projects at refineries.

Separate negotiations are also underway between Japanese businesses and state-run companies in individual countries with the goal of signing a memorandum for efficient production of uranium, which is used as a fuel for nuclear reactors.

The five Central Asian countries boast rich reserves of natural gas, uranium, copper and rare metals, among other materials. Russia views these former Soviet bloc countries as being within its sphere of influence and its attempting to increasing its sway in this regard.

Due to the countries’ locations and strategic importance for China’s Belt and Road Initiative — a massive economic zone that links Asia with Europe — Beijing has been trying to bolster ties with the nations through summit meetings.

From the viewpoint of economic security, G7 states also have expediting efforts to strengthen ties with the countries.

The United States and Germany held their first summit meetings with the five Central Asian nations in September. Additionally, representatives of the five countries were invited to take part in a G7 foreign ministerial meeting via video in November.

In September, Japan created a new framework for dialogue in the field of decarbonization and the energy sector, within the so-called Central Asia plus Japan Dialogue.

The government is currently trying to arrange summits with the countries in 2024.