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Japan urged to boost renewables development

Kyodo

The head of the World Bank urged Japan in a recent interview to develop more renewable energy sources while calling on emerging economies to get ready for a possible cutback in the U.S. central bank’s stimulus program.

“Japan . . . now needs to be even more aggressive in finding ways of using renewable sources,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim told a group of news organizations from Japan and South Korea in Washington ahead of his trip to the two countries next month.

Kim played down growing criticism of Japan for backpedaling on its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions after mostly suspending the use of nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.

“We don’t think this is the Japanese government saying they are not concerned about climate change,” said Kim, who will visit Japan on Dec. 5 and 6.

“It is very difficult in Japan right now, mostly because with the political decision to move away from nuclear energy, they have to quickly provide energy and they are doing it through fossil fuel,” he said.

Japan came under international fire after recently releasing a new goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that translates into a 3.1 percent increase from the Kyoto Protocol base year of fiscal 1990.

The Korean-American World Bank president said his organization is “excited” about opening a new office in Seoul during his visit there starting Dec. 3.

He said that in the event of a political system change in North Korea, the bank will be involved in the process in nonpolitical ways.

The World Bank is working closely with relevant South Korean experts “to make sure that when the breakthrough happens, we are in,” Kim said, noting the bank provided aid to Myanmar after the county embarked on democratic and economic reforms with the end of rule by the military junta.

When Myanmar opened up, foreign companies including from Japan and South Korea encountered a lack of energy supplies and the World Bank helped Myanmar boost energy output “at breakneck pace,” Kim said.

“We hope the lessons in Myanmar will be carefully studied in North Korea because it is exactly what we will do if North Korea opened up,” he said.

Kim expressed concern about economic slowdowns in emerging countries due to speculation that the U.S. central bank could soon wind down its quantitative easing program.

The World Bank head said the remark by Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, in May that it could begin tapering the stimulus program by the end of this year has produced visible effects in some emerging countries, including rises in bond yields.

The market reactions to Bernanke’s comment “exposed weakness” in countries with high current account deficits or high levels of foreign debt, he said.

Kim urged emerging economies that will potentially be affected once the U.S. Fed begins scaling back quantitative easing to step up preparatory measures. “Be more aggressive in debt management and think about the structural reforms they need to make,” he said.

On aid to the Philippines, recently ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan, the World Bank pledged nearly $1 billion in direct budgetary support and a community development program.

Kim thanked Japan, the second-largest shareholder of the World Bank, for “bringing disaster risk management to the forefront” in the response to the natural disaster in the Philippines.