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Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who took office about a month ago, made his full-fledged debut in summit diplomacy Tuesday by delivering a speech at a key U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

While Japan is coming under international scrutiny for its high dependence on coal-fired thermal power generation, a major source of carbon dioxide, Kishida pledged the country’s additional financial aid for developing nations’ efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

How Japan will promote decarbonization, a major global challenge, is likely to serve as a key test of the leader’s diplomatic skills.

In the speech, made on the second day of a two-day leaders’ meeting under the 26th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP26, Kishida said: “Japan will do all it can to combat climate change, a common issue to humanity. I came here to convey this determination.”

He said Japan will contribute up to $10 billion (¥1.14 trillion) over the next five years to help Asia’s decarbonization efforts.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida greets U.S. President Joe Biden during their first in-person meeting on the sidelines of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday. | CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE / VIA KYODO
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida greets U.S. President Joe Biden during their first in-person meeting on the sidelines of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday. | CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE / VIA KYODO

This is Kishida’s first overseas trip since he became prime minister Oct. 4. He left for Glasgow from Tokyo International Airport at Haneda on the morning of Tuesday, two days after the closely watched general election for the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of parliament, in which his ruling Liberal Democratic Party won a comfortable majority.

Kishida opted to attend the COP26 leaders meeting as he has been determined to boost Japan’s presence over the issue of climate change although he would stay in the Scottish city for only half a day while skipping the first-day session of the two-day meeting.

The Japanese government has vowed to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in fiscal 2030 by 46% from the level in fiscal 2013.

But its new basic energy program, adopted last month, set the share of coal-fired thermal power in Japan’s total electricity generation in fiscal 2030 at about 20%.

International pressure on Japan to scrap coal-fired thermal power generation is expected to increase at a time when many other advanced nations, including Britain, the chair of COP26, are accelerating moves for decarbonization.

Still, a source close to Kishida said his speech at COP26 would be welcomed by international society because it contained the aid pledge for developing countries in Asia.

Japan hopes that its technological and financial assistance to developing nations will inspire other developed countries to boost their own aid, an official accompanying the prime minister on his trip to Glasgow said.

During his stay in the city, Kishida also aimed to hold in-person meetings with other leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shakes hands with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of their meeting on the sidelines of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday. | POOL / VIA KYODO
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shakes hands with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of their meeting on the sidelines of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday. | POOL / VIA KYODO

With the world still reeling from the novel coronavirus pandemic, “opportunities for (Kishida to have) face-to-face meetings with foreign leaders would have been limited for the time being” if he had failed to visit Glasgow this time, a senior official of Japan’s Foreign Ministry said.

On top of having talks with Johnson, Kishida met in person with U.S. President Joe Biden, though briefly, on Tuesday.

Kishida is proud of his rich diplomatic experience, having served as foreign minister of Japan for four years and eight months.

But he was forced to attend Sunday’s Group of 20 summit in Rome online because the event coincided with the Lower House general election. Climate change was among major topics at the summit of the 20 advanced and emerging economies.

Now that the LDP secured an absolute stable majority in the Lower House through the election, Kishida looks prepared to actively carry out summit diplomacy.

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