For nearly three decades, the UN has worked to regularly bring together as many countries as possible for global climate change summits known as COPs, short for Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. climate changes. These events have served to focus the world’s attention on climate change more and more every year, increasingly reminding all concerned of the urgent need to take the issue as seriously as possible.
This year, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, dubbed COP26, will be held until November 12 in Glasgow, Scotland. Originally scheduled for 2020, but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, COP26 is of particular importance. At COP21 in 2015, participants from around the world reached the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees C (1.5 degrees, ideally). In addition, the countries concerned have undertaken to return every five years with an updated plan, carrying even greater ambitions, as far as possible. COP26 therefore represents an opportunity to aim even higher, because the causes and effects of climate change weigh more than ever on our collective future.
A dynamic 2021 in Japan
Despite the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic, the Japanese government has not rested on past efforts that embody its commitment to environmental improvement. In April 2021, for example, then-Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga explicitly stated Japan’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 46% from fiscal year 2013 levels by here fiscal year 2030.
In addition, new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced his intention to make COP26 his first official trip abroad as Prime Minister. The leadership meeting is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
Another event of note this year was the special meeting of ASEAN Energy Ministers and Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, held online on June 21. . At the time, the head of METI, Hiroshi Kajiyama, proposed the energy transition in Asia. Initiative, which provides support to ASEAN countries in several ways, helping them achieve a transition to more environmentally friendly lifestyles without sacrificing economic growth. It features everything from energy change roadmaps based on each country’s real-world needs and conditions, to $10 billion in financial support for specific projects, as well as plans for knowledge sharing and improvement. commercial environments.
The government has also spent much of the year working on a revision of Japan’s basic energy plan. It should be noted that Japan aims for renewables to account for 36% to 38% of total power generation capacity in FY2030, nearly double the 18% recorded in FY2030. financial year 2019.
A recent event of great significance to Japan, and emblematic of its attempts to combat climate change, was Tokyo Beyond Zero Week 2021, a combined set of eight international energy and environment conferences that are held from October 4 to 8. announcing the goal “to achieve a carbon-neutral and decarbonized society by 2050”, Tokyo Beyond Zero Week represented concrete steps in this direction.
Held online and in person in Tokyo, the eight conferences that made up TBZW brought together participants from Japan and around the world to address a kaleidoscope of vital issues. While an exhaustive list of everything discussed is beyond the scope of this article, a quick look at some areas shows the wide range of topics that were covered.
To ensure both growth and carbon neutrality, the need to look at the specific conditions of each nation and economy was highlighted. Japan’s progress in the key technology of carbon recycling has been released with the aim of further strengthening international cooperation and advancing related technologies. Another issue of note was how hydrogen can be used on a global scale, and ideas for building hydrogen-based societies around the world were discussed. The long-term prospects of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and how to increase market transparency for this fuel were also discussed, as this energy source has been a promoter of stability and sustainable growth in Japan and throughout the world. Ammonia was another zero-emission fuel that received attention, with a view to international collaboration and efforts to increase the recognition and use of this energy source.
In addition to energy sources and technology, the role of financial mechanisms was an important element to note during TBZW, and one that will only grow in importance in the years to come. The final conference of this eventful week brought together the leaders of the leading research and development institutes of the G20 countries. Cross-border collaboration between R&D organizations has been encouraged to bring new innovations in many areas.
A global effort
In 2021, US President Joe Biden sought to change the green policies of his predecessor Donald Trump, who pulled America out of the Paris accord. Biden was quick to ratify the deal again, and in his first speech at the United Nations, the new president also said America would double its climate finance commitment by 2024, increasing funding for countries. in development to $11.4 billion by that year.
In April, Biden also promised that the United States would halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Much of Biden’s commitment to the environment will depend on the giant federal overhaul of 3, $5 trillion pushed by his Democratic Party, but he faces potential cuts and controversy at home. .
At a Russian Energy Week conference last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country would aim to become carbon neutral by 2060. The announcement follows an order given in June by Putin to develop a carbon strategy and signing a climate law in July that represented a move towards green project and carbon trading systems. Although Russia has ratified the Paris Agreement, there has been little concrete action until recent developments there, as Russia remains the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Another possibility being considered in Russia is a commitment to reduce net carbon dioxide emissions by 79% between 2019 and 2050. However, this idea remains fluid and may or may not become a firm commitment.
Earlier this year in China, the country’s top economic planning body was put in charge of the greenhouse gas reduction initiative. The country’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is now the central body working on this issue, reversing a 2018 decision that gave the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) responsibility for the reduction of greenhouse gases.
The new NDRC plans to call for increased vigilance on climate issues as well as changes in the energy and metals sectors of the economy, which are responsible for large amounts of Chinese emissions. MEE will always have a role to play as it works to keep factories online by imposing fines and implementing other methods. Hazardous pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide, are monitored by MOEE, as is air quality.
Like Russia, China also has a goal of carbon neutrality for 2060. Much of the plan will involve a de-emphasis on coal as an energy source and steps to step up investment in new, cleaner technologies.
Whether or not COP26 achieves its goals will depend on the nations present. Despite the daunting challenges that continue to make the outcomes of climate change far from certain, hopes and goodwill remain high. As can be seen above, many of the world’s great nations have stepped up their efforts in recent years, giving hope. Whatever the final outcome, the entire planet will be watching closely as COP26 unfolds in the days ahead.