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Climate Change

Japan and EU to ally on aid for Asia decarbonization

Leading economies look to promote renewable energy in key region

The European Union has amassed expertise in renewable energy operations, such as this wind power park in France.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan and the European Union will embark on an alliance to combat climate change, Nikkei has learned, helping emerging Asian economies reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The two sides will work together to develop new technologies, while offering development assistance to encourage Southeast and South Asian countries that depend on coal-fired power plants to introduce renewable energy. Joint projects under the partnership are being finalized.

Tokyo and Brussels hope to combine their respective strengths to tackle climate change more effectively. Both have set a goal of zero net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

Japan is researching methods to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by burying the greenhouse gas underground. The country also is strong in power generation technology using ammonia as a fuel, while Europe has much experience operating renewable energy projects.

Efforts in emerging nations will be important to curb global carbon dioxide emissions. India's carbon dioxide emissions are on track to continue growing beyond 2040, but broader use of low-cost batteries could bring an earlier peak, just after 2030. Though India now relies heavily on coal, projects to add capacity for solar and other renewables are in the works. These power sources are generally more expensive than coal, but affordable batteries could make them cost-competitive.

Japan has been seen as lagging the EU and other major economies in fighting climate change. The country took its nuclear power plants offline after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in northeastern Japan, and only gradually has returned some of the facilities to service, relying on fossil fuels to fill the energy gap.

The U.S. and EU have criticized Japan's support for coal projects abroad. Exporting coal technology to energy-hungry markets such as Southeast Asia risks stymieing efforts to reduce emissions. Tokyo is considering cutting off support for exports of coal-fired power plants.

The EU has strengthened market incentives for decarbonization. The bloc plans to introduce a so-called carbon border adjustment mechanism that would raise the cost of imports from countries considered to be doing too little to reduce emissions.

A Japanese expert panel will discuss the idea of a carbon border tax, along with other carbon pricing methods, at its first meeting Wednesday. But deep-rooted concern exists in Tokyo about the potential for such systems to create trade frictions.

Decarbonization is expected to be on the agenda at the Group of Seven summit in June, ahead of the United Nations climate summit known as COP26 slated for November.

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