Masaya Fujiwara | Green economy critical in COVID-19 recovery
As the world is recovering from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should build back better from this crisis. The green economy is a key pillar to achieving a sustainable and resilient recovery, taking into account the serious effects of climate change and the need to keep the temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius, as agreed at the COP26.
Of course, this is not an easy task, and there are many challenges and hurdles before us. International partnerships are therefore important, because it is not something that can be done by one country alone. As Prime Minister Kishida of Japan emphasised during the World Leaders Summit at COP26 in November 2021, “no one must be left behind” as we confront the issue of climate change.
Japan is committed to strengthening the partnership for promoting the green economy. Since Japan declared to be carbon neutral by 2050 on October 2020, it has embarked on this difficult challenge through its ‘Green Growth Strategy’.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games held last year was ‘Recovery Olympic’ from the East Japan great earthquake 10 years ago. The Olympic flame lit by Naomi Osaka was fuelled by Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R), the world’s largest facility to produce hydrogen from solar energy, constructed in the Namie-Town, which had been hit by the nuclear power plant accident. Leading-edge efforts were made, as fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) and electric vehicles (EVs) equipped with storage batteries were used for the transfer of athletes in the Olympic village and transportation between venues. It becomes a symbol of our ‘Build Back Better’ vision and a guiding principle of our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
CHANGE OUR MINDSET
In order to build back better from this crisis, we need to transform our society to ensure the sustainable and resilient future growth by “decoupling” between the economic growth and the energy consumption.
That transformation stimulates “evaporated” demand by COVID-19 and raises the potential growth rate by developing and utilising the requisite innovative technologies. Indeed, transforming the economic structure is a big and daunting challenge but it simultaneously brings us new business opportunities and adds more fuel for sustainable economic growth in future. Fundamentally, we need to change our mindset. Likewise, addressing the issue of global warming is not a constraint or cost on economic growth, but rather, it ideally becomes anew engine of growth.
This notion is applicable for developed countries like Japan. Thus, transforming economic structure means changing business models and strategies, all of which are big challenges to overcome. Undoubtedly, these ‘transitions’ will bring new growth opportunities, thereby creating innovations and utilising new technologies and energy sources. For emerging and developing countries, the formulation of appropriate strategies is highly critical to promote and achieve realisation of the green economy. Securing the funds, technology and human resources and collaborating with institutions are needed for that. If the success stories of developed countries are suitably incorporated, then ‘leapfrogs’ will be possible.
Since the geographical features and economic and social conditions differ from country to country, each country should take appropriate steps, according to the actual situation where it stands. In each case, having a digital economy with an advanced digital processing technology becomes a vital growth engine to promote the green economy, as the experience of COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation in our society.
AMBITIOUS GOALS AND SUPPORT MEASURES
Japan is an island state and relies on imports of fossil fuels. It has made strenuous efforts for energy saving, resource reuse and developing renewable energy, and has, today, the highest energy efficiency in the world. To become carbon neutral by 2050 is a big challenge for Japan, especially in the circumstances where it can’t depend much on nuclear energy.
The Green Growth Strategy sets ambitious goals in a wide range of 14 fields, which is not only targeting the energy industry, but also the transport and manufacturing industries as well as home and office fields. Overall, it aims at a “virtuous cycle of economy and environment”. Three of the five cross-sectoral support measures are; grant funding, tax incentive, and regulatory reform. The Government of Japan has set up a green innovation fund of ¥2 trillion, approximately US$18 billion, to support innovation in the private sector.
Let me highlight two fields in which Japan has been making serious efforts. One is hydrogen, which has the advantage not to emit CO2, and can be a game-changer in terms of both energy security and the realisation of a carbon-neutral society. To date, Japan has been developing its manufacturing and hydrogen power generation technology and aims at making steady progress towards commercialisation in 2030 and reaching competitive level with fossil fuel in 2050.
Battery storage technology is another key area, as a carbon-neutral society is an electrified society. It relates not only to an automobile industry, but also a wide-ranging sector of our society. We aim at realising 100 per cent electric car sales by 2035 and achieving growth by developing related technology and supply chains. We expect, in 2050, the overall economic effect to be around 290 trillion yen, or approximately US$2.6 trillion, as well as 18 million employment opportunities through this strategy.
Japan is supporting the transition to clean energy and creating a carbon-free society, mainly in Asia, through the Asia Energy Transition Initiative. Japan will develop leading projects worth US$100 million to transform fossil-fuel-fired thermal power into zero-emission thermal power such as ammonia and hydrogen. Since 2021, Japan has been conducting pilot projects together with Australia to produce hydrogen, transport liquefied hydrogen by sea to build out the commercial supply chain in the region, including Pacific island countries, by 2030.
Japan is ready to provide up to US$10 billion in the coming five years, which would include our contribution to the launch of Innovative Financial Facility for Climate to support the decarbonisation of Asia and beyond.
GREEN ECONOMY IN JAPAN-JAMAICA PARTNERSHIP
Finally, Japan, Jamaica and CARICOM countries are traditional partners for sustainable development. The environment and disaster risk management sectors remain the priority areas of our cooperation. As Prime Minister Kishida announced at COP26, Japan would double the assistance for adaptation to climate change, such as disaster-risk reduction, to approximately US$14.8 billion in the five-year period leading to 2025.
Grant assistance projects are being implemented in Jamaica to improve emergency communication system for disaster prevention, as well as the deployment of patrol and rescue vessels, for which the agreement was signed when Prime Minister Holness visited Japan in 2019. They will soon be delivered to Jamaica.
Unequivocally, the green economy has a great potential for cooperation between our countries. When Foreign Minister Motegi visited Jamaica in July last year, we started discussions about how we can cooperate in the fields of “green” and “digital” in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the foreign minister’s working visit, the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) preliminary study is underway for Jamaica Special Economic Zone Development based on the concept of smart city. We consider that there is demand in Latin America and Caribbean countries for establishing a hydrogen supply chain in future. JICA is planning to conduct a study on the development needs and potential of hydrogen technology and value chains in the Latin American region. Jamaica has been selected as a target country.
Jamaica has an advantage as a logistics hub and high potential for renewable energy such as solar. In addition, since a Japanese company has been investing in the electric power sector here in Jamaica, we could develop our cooperation in the green growth area through public-private partnerships.
The history of mankind tells us that times of difficulty are in fact times of innovation. Humans cannot change the past or the nature, but can change the future and society. Now is the time for us to turn the ongoing crisis into an opportunity to change our future and society for the better.
I hope that the 21st century will be valued, in retrospect, as the time when humankind leaped onto a new stage of development by boosting innovation in every aspect of life, and that our Japan and Jamaica partnership will also leap into the new stage of the green economy in this commemorative year of the 60th anniversary of the independence of Jamaica.
Ambassador Masaya Fujiwara is ambassador of Japan to Jamaica. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.