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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Japan seeks technological innovations to reduce carbon emissions following nuclear plant shutdown

The country started carbon capture and storing projects in Australia and the Gulf

Capturing and storing carbon dioxide will be vital in the world’s collective effort to reduce emissions, Japanese experts said on the side-lines of the International Cool Earth Forum in Tokyo this week.

They spoke of their search for technological innovations to narrow the gap needed to meet the targets set by the Paris agreement – in which 196 countries agreed to implement federal laws that reduce their carbon emissions and ensure the Earth’s temperature does not rise by more than 2°C by 2050.

“Climate change is a global, long-term issue so we’ve been sustaining a platform to tackle that problem for many years,” said Dr Kenji Yamaji, director-general of the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (Rite) in Tokyo. “We should keep as many options as possible to tackle this issue, to make the general public know about it and for each government to support and promote measures.”

One of Japan’s targets is human capacity-building, the exchange of students and researchers with other countries as well as training.

“Through that process, we’re going to make human resources from the younger generations,” he said. “Options include using fossil fuel resources as well as developing carbon capture and storage technology. Fossil fuel used with that technology can be part of the solution to tackle global warming.”

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The country has begun projects in Australia and the Gulf in the field. “Carbon dioxide can be captured and used to increase our production while staying confined under the ground,” said Dr Yamaji, who is also a nuclear physicist.

“We’ll need good geological formations to store it and we’ve identified several locations, particularly in south-eastern Australia. The problem is this technology is expensive so we need funds.”

Japan is looking at ways to further reduce emissions once it restarts some of its nuclear power plants. “The country significantly increased its emissions while others decreased so this contrast shows us what’s wrong with Japan,” said Nobuo Tanaka, chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Tokyo.

“Japan was a leader of energy efficiency and climate change mitigation but not anymore. One of the reasons is the shutdown of the nuclear power plant so we need new technologies that are safe with an easy management of nuclear waste.”

Last year, Abu Dhabi started up the world’s first fully commercial carbon-capture steel project, which inject carbon dioxide into oil reservoirs to enhance output. Saudi Arabia is looking to follow the same path with hydrogen.

“The UAE has a good resource of gas, oil and solar potential but gas and oil will eventually disappear so before that, the government is probably one of the smartest investors in renewables in the Gulf,” Mr Tanaka said.

“The Masdar project is very interesting, to invest in solar, wind, zero emission technologies in residential areas, that kind of approach makes good sense.

“Nuclear is a possible part of the solution but investing in energy efficiency is another important area for the UAE and it’s one of the best players to adopt that direction.”

Technology and innovation are increasingly being seen as a major part of the solution to curbing emissions.

“It’s creating more jobs and more wealth in the business,” Mr Tanaka said. “To achieve 2°C is a very challenging target so we have to make sure that this target can be achievable with certain evidences in technology so we’re trying to investigate where these technologies are.”

The ICEF forum selected the top 10 innovations in the field to test out new choices and find out where the change is happening, what the potential is and the public’s opinion on them.

According to Ralph Sporer, vice president of the International Electrochemical Commission and chair of the Standardisation Management Board, supporting innovation is imperative. “Energy is a crucial issue for the well-being of our societies and future generations,” he said. “For several reasons, we urgently need to reduce our environmental footprint on earth and many private companies and research organisations are very active in riding innovation in this sector.”

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