• KYODO, REUTERS

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Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday pledged up to $10 billion in funds over five years to assist Asia along the path to zero carbon emissions, seeking to show leadership in efforts to curb global warming on his debut on the world stage at a key U.N. climate summit.

“Japan will press onward to undertake efforts toward net zero emissions in Asia, the engine of global economic growth,” Kishida said at the climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in a hastily arranged trip following the general election on Sunday.

The aid, which came on top of $60 billion in climate finance Japan committed in June, is aimed at bringing developed countries closer to delivering on their promise to mobilize $100 billion per year in climate finance — one of the key focuses of the ongoing U.N. climate talks, known as COP26.

Kishida also said Japan would double to $14.8 billion its assistance to help other countries adapt to climate change and prevent disasters.

More than 100 world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, have gathered from Monday for the two-day leaders’ session at the beginning of COP26 to provide political momentum for further actions to avoid the catastrophic impacts of global warming.

Meeting on the sidelines of the climate summit, Kishida had his first face-to-face conversation with Biden since taking office on Oct. 4 and agreed to strengthen the bilateral alliance and closely cooperate in realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific in the face of China’s assertive territorial claims and military buildup.

In the address during the second day of the leaders’ session, the new Japanese leader reaffirmed Tokyo’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 46% by fiscal 2030 compared with fiscal 2013 levels.

Japan will “continue strenuous efforts in its challenge to meet the lofty goal of cutting its emissions by 50%,” said Kishida, a former foreign minister.

Having come up with the more ambitious emissions cut target in the run-up to COP26, environmental experts have said Japan’s standing on climate issues, which has often been poorly rated, has greatly improved.

But critics have been disturbed by what they view as Japan’s insufficient efforts to phase out coal domestically. Japan, a resource-poor country, is the fifth-largest carbon dioxide emitter after China, the United States, India and Russia.

Kishida emphasized that Japan will play its part not just by cutting its own emissions but by beefing up climate finance to support developing countries in their fight against the crisis.

Developing countries are often the most vulnerable to climate change impacts such as droughts and rising sea levels despite historically contributing the least greenhouse gas emissions.

Kishida also said Japan will pursue a $100 million project to develop hydrogen- or ammonia-fired power generation, which are non-carbon-emitting, and explore various technologies to realize carbon-neutral cars.

In a side-event hosted by Biden on infrastructure development and climate change, the Japanese leader called for international cooperation to provide “high-standard” projects and international rules-based development finance.

The U.S., Japan and other like-minded countries have been seeking to counter Beijing’s growing clout through an alternative to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative.

Critics say the Chinese initiative lacks transparency, has poor environmental and labor standards, and has a record of saddling developing countries with debt.

Besides Biden, Kishida held bilateral talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on the margins of the climate summit.

Tokyo views all three countries as key partners in advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Kishida will be back in Japan on Wednesday, as his schedule remains tight following Sunday’s House of Representatives election.

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