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Biotechnology

Japan's universities pitch in to help Asia tackle climate change

TOKYO -- Japanese universities are supporting Asian countries, whose economies have grown in recent years, in their fight against global warming.

     Asia accounts for more than 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The ratio is projected to increase due to economic growth.     

     The 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP21, to be held in Paris at the end of the year, is asking Asian nations to disclose emissions reduction targets for the first time. This has prompted them to turn to Japan to help come up with more effective measures.

     Tamio Ida, a professor at Kinki University, said, "CO2 reduction and knowledge of energy circulation with a view to all of Asia will be necessary."

Malaysian example

In late August, Yuzuru Matsuoka, a professor at Kyoto University, spoke to representatives from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and the Malaysian government's urban and local planning bureau in the southern Malaysian city of Johor Bahru. Matsuoka advised them to review plans for road construction to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

     The city and surrounding areas are designated as a special economic zone, whose annual economic growth is expected to be 8% on average by 2025, raising prospects for increased CO2 emissions. That prompted the Malaysian government, which aims to woo investment by promoting Johor Bahru as an eco-friendly city, to look to Kyoto University for help.

     In urban planning, the university utilizes a climate change projection simulation called the "Asia-Pacific Integrated Model" it jointly developed with Japan's National Institute for Environmental Studies.

     The large-scale computer simulation model predicts the amount of CO2 emissions based on population, industrial makeup and traffic conditions. 

     Matsuoka suggested countermeasures in 12 areas, including transportation and energy, which have been implemented since this year. The professor is also lending a helping hand with urban planning in Cambodia and Vietnam.

     Hak Mao, a Cambodian student studying at Kyoto University's graduate school, said he wants to realize a low-carbon society in Cambodia by utilizing everything he is learning. He also says that he wants to lead the Cambodian government's urban planning when he returns to his own country.

     Matsuoka's laboratory has so far accepted international students from nearly 10 Asian countries, such as South Korea, China, Indonesia and Bangladesh. He said that having international students will lead to a broader human network in Asia and help Japan's measures against global warming.

     Tohoku University professor Jusen Asuka is joining hands with China's Tsinghua University in predicting the impact of emissions trading on the economy. The team is looking for measures that are necessary for companies with factories in China to build the most effective system of emissions trading.

     China is the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, and many Japanese companies are operating there. Therefore, nurturing human resources is vital for both Japan and China in their joint efforts in taking environmental measures. "Young students are forging closer ties through the project," Asuka noted.

New coke

Kinki University's Ida is manufacturing biocoke, a fuel made by crushing and solidifying plants under high pressure. Using biocoke at garbage disposal facilities and iron mills instead of coking coal could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.     

     Last autumn, Ida set up a facility in Kota Tinggi in southern Malaysia to manufacture biocoke from the large amounts of oil palm's empty fruit bunches by teaming up with Osaka Gas of Japan. His team succeeded in making 2 tons of biocoke a day and is considering commercializing the product.

    Biocoke could make a huge difference if it were introduced in tropical areas that have biomass resources. Ida is considering introducing the fuel to Indonesia and other countries as well.

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