Tokyo’s governor wants to work with UAE green start-ups on projects ranging from "bendable" solar cells that could be spray painted on skyscrapers, to cutting air pollution in the hunt for climate solutions. The first female governor of Japan's capital, Yuriko Koike is responsible for the world’s largest city, with a population of 14 million.
At Cop28, she has addressed discussions centered on sustainability and invited UAE small and medium businesses to visit Tokyo to collaborate on clean energy challenges.
“The key words are act and deliver, and the time is now,” Ms Koike, currently serving a second term as governor, told The National.
“This year we have witnessed so many natural calamities, flooding and wildfires. The crisis is here today and everywhere in our world. We have to seek ways as cities, nations to find solutions.
"It is very historical that an oil-producing country hosts Cop28. The UAE and Japan want to work together to tackle the climate crisis. We can move forward together to a sustainable future. We want to work with cities around the world, like in the UAE.”
Solar spray paint tests in Tokyo
Named in this year’s Forbes list of the world’s 100 most powerful women, Ms Koike has a long history of public service. Elected to parliament in 1992, she served as Japan’s environment minister in 2003 and later became the country’s first female defence minister.
Committed to renewable energy, she is interested in technology that can provide sustainable solutions to resolve waste management, traffic and pollution issues in crowded urban areas.
She is committed to achieving the goals she has set for Tokyo, such as halving the city’s carbon emissions by 2030 and reaching zero emissions by 2050.
For this she wants to work with cities around the world to share knowledge on energy efficiency.
Ms Koike is excited about the Tokyo metropolitan government working on a project to develop solar technology called perovskite, which is flexible and lighter than silicon-based solar cells currently in use around the world.
Perovskite cells are extremely thin, less than 1 micrometre, and can be painted or sprayed on to surfaces, making them easy to use.
The governor launched a testing site at a Tokyo sewerage facility earlier this year using the perovskite panels.
“These solar panels will be game changer in renewable energy as the efficiency of this increases. These are bendable, can be put not just on roofs but walls and curved surfaces,” she said.
“We have joint research on in Tokyo and are testing this out.”
Researchers across the world are attempting commercial manufacturing of these solar panels that can be easily fitted on varied surfaces including building walls to open up wider access and usage of solar power.
Links with the Middle East
Ms Koike has strong links to the Middle East, having studied sociology at Cairo University and being fluent in Arabic.
A frequent visitor to the UAE since the 1970s, she has witnessed sweeping changes from its pearl diving past to its transformation as a global economic hub.
“My first visit to Dubai and the Emirates was in 1970s, so I have seen such enormous strategic development,” she said.
“It is such a miracle the change from that day to 52 years after. Since I lived in this region, the society has taught me a lot, and this has deepened my understanding of the UAE.”
Her slogan, "Time to Act", is part of her continuous effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Tokyo will hold a gathering named SusHiTech in May 2024, where technology companies and innovators will gather to tackle global challenges.
“I’m inviting leaders and companies from this region to participate in this event,” she said.
“It’s called SusHiTech, but has nothing to do with sushi and represents sustainability and high tech.
“We want start-ups, young people to get together with investors.
“We will also have sessions for cities and local governments because cities have common agendas, such as solving problems in waste management, traffic and transportation.
“We can share initiatives and experiences to jointly face tomorrow’s challenges."