Kishida to Announce New Think Tank at ASEAN, Australia Decarbonization Summit

The new think tank will aim to steer Japan, Australia, and ASEAN on a realistic path toward decarbonization.

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On December 16, Tokyo will host the first summit of the Asian Zero Emission Community (AZEC). This meeting coincides with a special summit meeting between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

On December 8, sources learned of a draft of the joint statement that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will issue at the summit. Kishida's proposal includes establishing a policy think tank that will be central in decarbonizing the Southeast Asian region. With this proposal, Kishida aims for a uniquely Asian method of decarbonization, utilizing Japan's experience and technological capabilities.

Asia Zero Emissions Center is the tentative name of the think tank. It will be established at the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), an international organization in Jakarta. Operations will commence in 2024.

In addition to introducing a carbon pricing system for carbon dioxide emissions, the think tank will support institutional reforms. These reforms include the creation of a mechanism for the transmission and distribution of electricity. Such a system is indispensable for the spread of renewable energy.

Key Points of the AZEC Joint Statement Draft

  • Aim for a diverse and realistic path toward decarbonization in Japan and the ASEAN region, taking into account the circumstances of each country.
  • Establish the Asia Zero Emissions Center to support decarbonization in each country.
  • Set up an Eminent Persons Group led by Keidanren and ASEAN business groups to assist AZEC.
  • Develop partnerships with Middle Eastern nations to build a clean energy supply chain.
  • Decarbonize manufacturing supply chains through fair trade and environmental considerations.
Japan's PM Fumio Kishida delivers a statement during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, on December 1, 2023. (©REUTERS by Thaier Al Sudani)

Southeast Asia Needs a Realistic Approach

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is underway in Dubai. At the conference, several nations perceived Japan as taking a step back from decarbonization. For example, Japan did not join the coalition of nations, led by France and the United States, willing to phase out coal-fired power generation.

Japan has been slow to restart its nuclear power plants. Furthermore, the country's topography makes securing locations for solar panels and wind farms difficult. Other ASEAN nations face similar issues. While electricity demand grows rapidly, the concentration of populations in urban areas creates challenges for the proliferation of renewable energy.

Therefore, Japan and ASEAN aim to decarbonize the entire region by adopting a realistic approach. While expanding the use of renewable energy, they also aim to reduce CO2 emissions from existing coal-fired power plants through hydrogen and ammonia co-firing. This undertaking will be a flagship project for the think tank. 

Kishida's draft statement also includes the establishment of an Eminent Persons Group to support AZEC. It will encourage decarbonization by promoting exchanges at the private-sector level, led by Keidanren and ASEAN economic organizations.

Kishida announced the AZEC concept in January 2022. AZEC brings together all ASEAN member nations besides Myanmar and includes Japan and Australia. 

This article was first published on JAPAN Forward on December 11, 2023.

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