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Government, business leaders address climate change

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Staff Writer

The Delegation of the European Union to Japan held a symposium in which ambassadors of European countries and executives of major corporations discussed environmental measures in the EU.

The April 21 symposium, titled “Climate Change Policy in Europe: Opportunity or Threat for Business?” brought together ambassadors of the European Union, Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany and Britain, as well as executives of Nissan Motor Co., Ricoh Co., Unilever Japan and Shell Netherlands.

EU countries are trying to lead the world in preventing global warming. The union has set ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and each country is working to meet them.

EU leaders agreed in October to a greenhouse gas reduction target of at least 40 percent compared to 1990 levels by the year 2030. This 2030 policy framework aims to make the EU economy and energy system more competitive, secure and sustainable and also sets a target of having at least 27 percent of energy renewable by 2030.

Ambassador of the European Union to Japan Viorel Isticioaia-Budura kicked off the symposium by welcoming the audience at the delegation’s headquarters in Japan in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.

“The high level of ambition of our new 2030 (energy and climate) package is in our own economic interests,” Isticioaia-Budura said in the keynote speech.

Countries and companies should take renewable energy and energy saving as business opportunities, he said. Many new businesses will be launched and flourish, in turn creating many jobs, he said, adding that Europe as well as Japan should enjoy great business opportunities in these fields.

He called on Japan to set an example for other countries in negotiations toward a new international climate agreement, noting its political weight as the only Asian nation in the Group of Seven, and the third-largest economy in the world. While recognizing the difficult energy challenges Japan faces, he also observed how Japanese industry has the potential to be a world leader in developing green technologies, and called for a renewed sense of ambition on Japan’s part.

“Like the EU, Japan needs to play a strong leadership role in international climate change negotiations,” he said. “It should not miss the economic opportunities that climate and energy policies offer for the creation of new jobs, and innovation; it could become the fourth arrow of ‘Abenomics,'” he added.

Isticioaia-Budura also said he is looking forward to Japan submitting a new target on greenhouse gas emissions well ahead of the COP 21 in Paris in December, formally known as the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Japan in 2013 revised down its 2020 target to 3.8 percent below 2005 levels, or 3.1 percent above 1990 levels, compared with its previous target of a 25 percent reduction by 2020 from 1990 levels. The revision came after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011 idled all of Japan’s about 50 nuclear reactors, resulting in a massive increase of fossil fuel power generation.

Following Isticioaia-Budura’s speech, a panel discussion, “Climate Policy and Implementation in the EU Member States,” was held with French Ambassador Thierry Dana, Danish Ambassador Carsten Damsgaard, Swedish Ambassador Magnus Robach, German Ambassador Hans Carl Von Werthern and British Ambassador Tim Hitchens.

The ambassadors each showcased their countries’ environmental efforts.

Dana said low carbon electricity accounts for 90 percent of France’s power production with nuclear power making up 73 percent, while renewable energy is 17.5 percent.

France reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 12 percent in 2012 from 1990 levels. The country is currently drafting the Energy Transition Bill stipulating reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, in line with the EU’s target.

Damsgaard said Denmark has a more ambitious plan. It will use only renewable energy for power generation by 2050, and reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2020.

“It’s possible to achieve with existing technology,” he said. “People ask why we are so ambitious. The short answer is that it’s good business.”

He showed a graph of GDP steadily growing from 1990 to 2012 and energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions steadily falling in the same timeframe.

Sweden’s Robach also showed a graph showing a similar trend of GDP and greenhouse gas emissions.

He mentioned in his presentation that forests are a major energy source in Sweden for heating, transportation, among other things and the country boasts clean filtering technology.

Japan is also rich in forests and thus has a “hidden treasure,” he said.

Germany’s Werthern echoed his Danish counterpart’s idea that green energy is good business. It’s also good for the national economy, he added, indicating an uptrend in German macroeconomic statistics.

Germany’s target is particularly ambitious because “we’ve decided to do away with nuclear power,” he said. Nuclear power generation does not emit greenhouse gasses.

“Nuclear energy and clean energy can be decoupled,” he said.

Britain, on the other hand, has a different view on the role of nuclear power in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Nuclear power is central to achieving the target for us,” Hitchens said.

Nuclear power is a cheaper alternative in low-emission power generation than renewable energies such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power generation.

“The key is to create market certainty,” he said, hinting that nuclear power may still be a realistic alternative that power companies and consumers prefer.

The panel discussion was followed by a Q&A session.

Asked why Denmark is so successful in green energy, Damsgaard said, “Industries are very supportive.” He mentioned Danish shipping company, Maersk, which uses latest fuel technology to maximize fuel efficiency.

Robach said consumer support is also very important. For example, Swedish clothing retailer H&M has launched a recycling campaign in Japan and other countries and is collecting many clothes for recycling, he said.

Asked what they expect from Japan at COP 21, all five ambassadors said they want Japan to take a leadership role in climate change policy.

“One of the solutions is a smart city (with the ability to optimize energy use and generation). In that context, Japan, being a highly sophisticated society, has enormous opportunity,” Hitchens said.

The discussion with ambassadors were followed by the second panel discussion with business executives, titled “Tackling Climate Change: New Business Opportunities for Industry.” Nissan Motor Co. Vice Chairman Toshiyuki Shiga; Yuji Noritake, corporate advisor of Sustainability Management Division of Ricoh Co.; Unilever Japan CEO and President Fulvio Guarneri; and Shell Netherlands President Director Dick Benschop participated in the discussion.

They each explained their companies’ measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental initiatives.

The business executives echoed the ambassadors that Japan has cutting-edge environmental technology and should take a leadership role in the world.


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