Solutions to climate change puzzle remain elusive

Japanese scientists explore option of underground storage of carbon dioxide

Experts in Japan have said more renewable solutions are needed to help tackle climate change

Although the shutdown of Japan’s nuclear power plant in Fukushima slowed down carbon emissions between 2014 and 2015, experts have said more long-term sustainable systems must be found to tackle climate change.

And with the world working towards curbing emissions to meet the Paris agreement's main goal of limiting the average global temperature increase to below 2C, more work needs to be done.

“Any country, regardless of its location, has to find its own system,” said Tomoaki Ishigaki, director of climate change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo. “For the Gulf countries which have a high dependency on fossil fuels, they have to think of an energy pathway to diversify and move much more to renewable energy sources.”

A report released earlier this year predicted a 10 to 35 per cent increase in air conditioning demand by 2050 in the UAE. Mr Ishigaki said solar energy would play a major role.

“We have to really think of ways we spend energy and those come from baby steps,” he said. “There are small ways but it’s shown results. Similar things can be done in the UAE, it takes a certain approach.”

Organisations such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency are studying ways to improve carbon emissions worldwide. “We have to start action to mitigate climate change,” said Kobayashi Hiroyuki, deputy director general at the agency. “We need more power development but we also have to reduce emissions. It’s a very difficult situation because once we create a new power plant, they emit exhaust gases so resolving this question is a dilemma.”

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With Japan’s few natural resources and experience in serious energy crises in 1993 and 1997, the government and private sector have developed technologies to overcome the issue, including highly efficient technologies, renewable energy and energy conservation. “Those technologies can be very useful to solve the international dilemma,” he said. “We might have to reach zero emissions one day so we have to work on it from now.”

The agency started joint research on how to store carbon dioxide underground. “This technology can help us in the future to be able to store it all underground,” he added. “We can’t apply this tomorrow but in the future, we have to try new ideas.”

It is also working on installing hybrid grid systems on islands and using satellite technology to detect steam spots in the ground instead of drilling.

The UAE has also made great strides. “It’s remarkable to think how things have changed in the UAE,” Mr Ishigaki said. “But what’s still common is how to develop the economy and still be environmentally sound. That still hasn’t changed and Japan can’t solve this global problem on its own so to find the transition process from fossil fuel to renewable is difficult but beneficial for all.”

Bringing in more efficient power plants will be key. “We’re very much interested in hydrogen and hybrid systems for cars,” said Misako Takahashi, director of economic security at the ministry. “We’re also trying to come up with new innovation systems which can be compatible with climate change requirements and we have quite an ambitious plan to cut carbon emissions by 26 per cent by 2030. It all depends on how our energy mix can develop.”