Japan Falls Short on Tackling Climate Change, Top Official Says
(Bloomberg) -- A top Japanese official said the country is falling short of international expectations to tackle climate change because it’s not shifting away from fossil fuels fast enough.
Japan must accelerate investment in renewable energy to meet its 2050 carbon neutrality goal and assert global leadership in the energy transition, Kono Taro, a former administrative reform minister said in an interview with Bloomberg News Wednesday in Tokyo. Reluctance from the trade ministry to adopt more renewable energy puts Japan at risk of falling behind “everyone else on this planet,” he said earlier this month.
“If we are trying to get to carbon neutral by 2050 we have no alternative but to increase the amount of renewables,” said Kono, who asked that his name be written in the Japanese style with family name first. “I don’t see any problem phasing out coal and oil, if we do it right.” Natural gas will also eventually have to be phased out too, he added.
Government officials have been quietly urging trading houses, refiners and utilities to slow down their move away from fossil fuels, and even encouraging new investments in oil-and-gas projects, Bloomberg News reported this month. While Japan is aiming for renewables to make up 36% to 38% of the energy mix by fiscal 2030, the resource-poor nation faces challenges as it balances energy security and decarbonization goals.
But writing off renewable energy in Japan because of its geographical nature is wrong, Kono said, adding he spoke with European companies interested in the country’s budding onshore and offshore wind power market, despite a common argument that the infrastructure would be at risk due to typhoons.
Renewable sources of energy will also be crucial for Japan to remain globally competitive, Kono said, referring to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s plan to build a $7 billion fabrication plant in Japan.
Without clean and cheap electricity, the TSMC plant in Japan “will not be very competitive -- in order to do that, we need to provide renewable energy,” he said.
Kono, who has previously served as the vaccine czar and defense and foreign minister, was the public pick in opinion polls to replace Yoshihide Suga as prime minister. He came in second place in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party leadership election in September. Educated in the U.S., Kono spoke in English throughout the interview.
While the former cabinet member isn’t opposed to restarting existing nuclear power plants for the time being and using them until they reach their lifespan, Kono says investing in new nuclear power plants, including advanced technologies like small-modular reactors, “doesn’t make financial sense” due to exorbitant cost and the ever-remaining issue of nuclear waste. Other top ruling party members have backed investing in SMR.
“If you are going to invest in something, it’s better to invest in renewables,” Kono said.
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