East Asia Low Carbon Growth Partnership Dialogue
Keynote Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba
April 15, 2012; Hotel Nikko Tokyo
It is an honor to hold this East Asia Low Carbon Growth Partnership Dialogue here today, inviting experts who are playing leading roles in the fields of climate change and low-carbon growth.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the warm support Japan received from each country following the Great East Japan Earthquake. While dedicating all our efforts toward disaster reconstruction, with the nuclear power accident, Japan is presently advancing examinations on the shape of a new energy mix, which is related to the theme of our gathering today. In particular, we intend to powerfully promote energy conservation and renewable energies. We are also devising smart community projects as a new type of urban development in the Tohoku region disaster area. An international conference was recently held there in Fukushima Prefecture, which is where I come from.
Major progress was made at COP17 last year, presenting the pathway toward a new framework. To advance effective climate change measures, I believe it is important to promote efforts from diverse approaches, fully reflecting international diversity, as a supplement to global activities under the United Nations.
Importance of the "Low Carbon Growth" Approach
The key here is the "low-carbon growth" approach. To date, the common understanding has been that achieving economic growth requires the use of vast quantities of energy, and that such energy use inevitably generates large CO2 emissions. In fact, global CO2 emissions have roughly doubled over the past 40 years. If CO2 emissions continue at this pace, the IPCC estimates that temperatures will rise by 2.4 to 6.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century, causing severe damage from destruction of ecosystems and frequent natural disasters. To maintain economic growth that gives people an abundant life under such conditions, we must achieve growth using less energy and with fewer CO2 emissions, that is to say, "low-carbon growth." Without this, there will be harmful effects on food, water, and in terms of disaster prevention, and economic growth itself may become difficult. This "low-carbon growth" approach can create new employment and be the source of new growth, but technology, markets and funds must fulfill important roles to make this happen. "Japan's Vision and Actions toward Low Carbon Growth and a Climate-Resilient World" announced at COP 17 at the end of last year is based on exactly this type of thinking.
Today's East Asia Low Carbon Growth Partnership Dialogue is a part of concrete efforts of this vision. East Asia is a region with a great diversity of countries in terms of the stage of economic growth, industry, culture and other factors, that has realized high economic growth. On the other hand, it is the world's largest greenhouse gas emissions area, with EAS member states accounting for about 63% of global emissions. East Asia also faces diverse problems including energy demand increases and urbanization accompanying rapid population growth. From that perspective, in our conference today I would like us to discuss what kind of concrete cooperation we can develop in this region to continue achieving economic growth with less energy and fewer CO2 emissions, and reinforce win-win relations.
Aims of Each Session
We will proceed with our discussions today focusing on three aspects.
First is cooperation for formulating and implementing low-carbon growth strategies. I would like us to begin by confirming the importance of formulating and implementing strategies fully considering the conditions, issues and needs in each country, and to then discuss what types of international cooperation we should advance to support those strategies. East Asia is a region with great potential for realizing low-carbon growth, which also has extremely high human resources development and infrastructure improvement needs. In the climate change field, Japan has provided about seven billion dollars in assistance to this region through the end of 2012 as short-term support. To continue to steadily advance low-carbon growth in this region in the future, we should reach a common understanding regarding what is necessary and in which fields. Examples might include assistance to developing countries for formulating low-carbon growth strategies, human resources development and infrastructure improvement in such fields as forest conservation, energy, transportation and waste products processing, and advancing the smart city concept. I hope we will have lively discussions on how international assistance should be mobilized for those purposes, including the opinions of each country and international organization.
Second is the use of technologies and markets. As I have consistently stressed in the past, superior low-carbon technologies have an extremely important role in dealing with the climate change problem over the medium to long term. While it is necessary to promote further technology innovation in the developed countries, introducing superior low-carbon technologies in the developing countries can achieve both CO2 emissions reductions and economic growth. The role of the private sector is also extremely important. We must further prepare the environment for firms to positively expand their business in developing countries. For example, in terms of primary energy supply per unit GDP, Japan's energy efficiency is about five times the global average, and at the highest level worldwide. To date, Japan has supported the dissemination overseas of superior low-carbon technologies held by Japanese companies in diverse fields including geothermal and high-efficiency coal thermal power.
The construction of a market mechanism which generates investment incentives is also an important issue to spread superior low-carbon technologies and products. I think it is precisely in East Asia – with its huge investment needs for low-carbon growth – where we must investigate the establishment of a new diverse, open and multi-layered market mechanism, which is not centralized.
From that perspective, Japan is proposing a bilateral offset credits mechanism to supplement the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). I know that how to improve market mechanism has been energetically debated at U.N. conferences. I hope this will be actively discussed at today's Dialogue from the perspective of realizing more practical cooperation.
Third is the construction of a network in the East Asian region. To achieve low-carbon growth throughout this region, national governments, international organizations, local governments, research institutions, private companies and NGOs will all have to cooperate toward concrete action. I think we should create the type of open, multi-layered and flexible network where these diverse players give concrete input to the policymaking process of each country's government, while sharing their mutual knowledge and experience. For example, I would like to have discussions on the potential to build some sort of platform to share knowledge and experience in broad-ranging fields including climate change, the environment overall, and energy.
I would like this conference to be the kickoff toward achieving low-carbon growth in East Asia, and to lead to ongoing efforts in the future. I also intend to report the achievements of today's Dialogue to the East Asia Summit to be held this November. I will do my best to conduct today's proceedings together with my co-chair Mr. Rachmat Witoelar. I look forward to spirited discussions of the issues today.
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