Japan's contribution to cool earth

1. Introduction

On May 24, 2007, then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the "Cool Earth 50" Plan at an international conference titled "Asian Future." The plan presented a long-term strategy to cope with global warming issues, and upheld the following two purposes:

(1) Cutting global greenhouse gas emissions to half the current level by 2050, and
(2) Presenting a long-term vision for developing innovative technologies and building a low-carbon society.

The Cool Earth 50 Plan also proposed three principles for establishing a post-2013 (i.e. post Kyoto Protocol) framework, as follows.

(a) All major emitters must participate, thus moving beyond the Kyoto Protocol, to achieve global reduction of emissions;
(b) The framework must be flexible and diverse, taking into consideration the circumstances of each country; and
(c) The framework must achieve compatibility between environmental protection and economic growth by utilizing energy conservation and other technologies.

Despite changes in prime ministers, the Japanese Government holds fast the two purposes and three principles of the Cool Earth 50 Plan even today. This paper focuses on the following two points:

(i) How compatibility between environmental protection and economic growth could be made, and
(ii) How Japan should contribute to "Cool Earth" on a long-term basis.

In regard to point (i), this paper makes clear the validity of energy conservation and technological innovation in sections II and III. One of the most important innovations is CCS (Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage) / EOR (Enhanced Oil Recovery) technology.

In regard to point (ii), this paper introduces two unique Japanese methods for cutting global greenhouse gases, the "Top Runner Program" and the "Sector by Sector Approach," in sections IV and V. The former is effective in the residential, commercial, and transportation sectors, and the latter is valid in the industrial sectors.

2. Energy Conservation

To address global warming in earnest requires a clear vision. The vision should be founded on a good balance between "affluence" and "global salvation", which may be achieved by promoting energy conservation.

The greatest issue in implementing global warming countermeasures is to avoid initiatives that may conflict with people's desire to attain affluence. Such initiatives create a "tradeoff" between affluence and global salvation, so to speak. Unless this tradeoff mechanism is eliminated, global warming countermeasures cannot be expected to make any progress. The reason why newly developing countries such as China and India did not participate in the framework for establishing country-specific greenhouse gas emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol, is because they feared that the establishment of such a target may interfere with efforts to realize affluence in their countries.

The tradeoff between affluence and global salvation can only be resolved by promoting energy conservation. The figure eloquently illustrates this point.

Note: Figures have been obtained by dividing primary energy consumption (equivalent to tons of oil) by GDP (converted to US dollars) and adjusting them in reference to Japan as represented by a value of 1. Source: Agency of Natural Resources and Energy, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Division, "Report on Energy Conservation Measures" (2007) Original material: IEA Energy Balance 2006

It shows a comparison of primary energy consumption per GDP (gross domestic product) in the world's major countries and regions, based on data compiled by IEA (International Energy Agency) in 2006. More specifically, the oil equivalent of primary energy consumption in each country and region was divided by GDP converted to US dollars, to achieve a numerical value for that country/region when Japan is given a value of 1. The smaller the value, the more advanced the energy conservation is in the relevant country/region. However, even in the EU (European Union), where energy conservation is generally assumed to be quite advanced, 1.7 times more energy is used to achieve the same level of GDP as Japan. In regard to other countries, the United States consumes 2.0 times more energy, South Korea and Canada 3.2 times, Thailand and the Middle Eastern countries 6.0 times, and Indonesia, China, and India, approximately 8 - 9 times more energy. When it comes to Russia, the country uses 18.0 times more energy compared to Japan.

The figure eloquently shows that energy consumption can be reduced considerably (and in effect, achieve considerable reduction in greenhouse effect gas emissions) while maintaining and expanding affluence, if all countries/regions in the world achieve the same level of energy conservation as Japan. Promoting energy conservation is indeed the sole solution to resolving the tradeoff between affluence and global salvation.

3. Technological Innovation

In order to achieve the long-term target of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2050, it is crucial to develop innovative energy technologies that are not an extension of conventional technologies. On March 5, 2008, the Japanese Government announced "Cool Earth-Innovative Energy Technology Program," which identified 21 technologies to be prioritized, as follows:

  1. High-efficiency natural gas-fired power generation,
  2. High-efficiency coal-fired power generation,
  3. Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS),
  4. Innovative photovoltaic power generation,
  5. Advanced nuclear power generation,
  6. High-efficiency superconducting power transmission,
  7. Intelligent transport system,
  8. Fuel cell vehicle,
  9. Plug-in hybrid vehicle/ Electric vehicle,
  10. Production of transport bio-fuel,
  11. Innovative materials production/processing,
  12. Innovative iron and steel making process,
  13. High-efficiency house and building,
  14. Next-generation efficiency lighting,
  15. Stationary fuel cell,
  16. Ultra high-efficiency heat pumps,
  17. High-efficiency information device and system,
  18. House/building/local-level energy management system,
  19. High-performance power storage,
  20. Power electronics, and
  21. Hydrogen production, transport and storage.

In these fields, Japan is a global leader, boasting the world's top level energy technologies.

With respect to CCS (third technology in above list), Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) is pursuing efforts to link the technology to EOR (enhanced oil recovery). JOGMEC has been engaging in the technical development of EOR since the 1980s, and has implemented a feasibility study in Kuwait and Abu Dhabi, on the entire process of recovering carbon dioxide (CO2) that is released from power stations and injecting it to oil layers to increase crude oil recovery. Based on results of the study, JOGMEC is presently utilizing the knowledge it has accumulated through the technical development of EOR (CO2 injection technology, technology for analysis of fluid behavior in underground oil/gas layers, etc.) to implement technical development and surveys on CCS. In addition to CCS, JOGMEC is also pushing forward with technical development and surveys on general environmental conservation issues relating to oil and natural gas development (treatment of oilfield-produced gas and water accompanying oil and natural gas development, etc.).

4. "Top Runner Program"

As a leader in energy conservation, Japan plays a large role in implementing worldwide global warming countermeasures. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the promotion of energy conservation is the single most significant theme among Japan's contribution to the international community in the 21st century.

However, this is not to say that Japan may remain content with its current level of energy conservation. It is important to remember the historical fact that the ceaseless effort in pursuing technical innovation and institutional reform was the driving force behind the development of Japan into today's leader in energy conservation.

In Japan in the post-oil crisis era, industries began to actively pursue energy conservation, and advances were made in institutional reforms to promote those efforts. Following the establishment of the "Law concerning Rationalization of Energy Use" (commonly known as the Energy Conservation Law) in 1979, energy conservation guidelines were formulated for plants and buildings, and guidelines on energy consumption efficiency were also compiled for machinery and appliances (automobiles, air conditioners, etc.). The guidelines for machinery and appliances contained advanced concepts that would later lead to the establishment of the "top runner system," which was eventually introduced on a full scale in 1999. Under the top runner system, automotive mileage standards and electrical appliance energy-saving standards are to be set at levels that exceed the performance of the most efficient product on the market at the time, in each product category. The system is presently attracting worldwide attention as a unique energy conservation measure developed by Japan.

A pamphlet titled Top Runner Program, issued in January 2008 by Japan's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Energy Conservation Center, Japan (ECCJ), describes the top runner system as follows.


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