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COP26 and PFC’s Decarbonization Strategy

Yukiko Kuroda is the founder of PFC, and also serves on the boards of a number of listed Japanese companies. Learn more about Yukiko here.

Note. This article was originally published on LinkedIn in Nov 2021, after COP26

On November 13, COP26 (26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) closed in Glasgow, one day later than scheduled. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen to the experience of a journalist who participated in the conference. As it was right after her return, she seemed to still be full of excitement and told me how overwhelmed she was by the enthusiasm inside and outside the conference. In particular, the host country, the United Kingdom, was putting a variety of efforts into full swing, as it was a golden opportunity for the country to show its international leadership after leaving the EU. The BBC, for example, had a coverage team whose size was comparable to that of the Olympics, and gave blanket coverage of the conference and related civic activities.

She said that there were two major themes in COP 26 – one being commitment for 1.5 degrees and the other being an exit from fossil fuels. In the 2015 Paris Agreement, it was agreed to limit the temperature rise to within 2 degrees Celsius, with 1.5 degrees Celsius positioned as a “target to pursue efforts” towards. However, in recent years, the IPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) revealed that there is a big difference between what will happen with an increase of 1.5 degrees versus 2 degrees, and a consensus has built that the goal should now be 1.5 degrees Celsius or less. The need to exit from fossil fuels is so obvious that it should not require an explanation.

However, against this backdrop , Prime Minister Kishida's speech was completely off the mark, according to the journalist, because he made no mention of 1.5 degrees Celsius and said that Japan would contribute to the development of coal-fired power generation using ammonia. Quoting the journalist, she said "I can't believe that Japan, not a developing country, but a developed country, advocated maintaining coal-fired power generation. And he said it with a “smug” face. Who in the world would talk like that? I thought. The reaction from other countries was basically ‘What the hell is he talking about?’”

I do not have the technical knowledge to discuss the pros and cons of coal-fired power generation using ammonia, so I will refrain from commenting on this issue. However, I am seriously concerned that Japan is lagging as the world accelerates its efforts to combat global warming. I am sure many corporate executives feel the same way. There are some elderly former executives who claim that Japan's environmental measures are superior to the rest of the world, but that was true only in the Showa era and is now an illusion. For example, at COP26, Japan was ranked 45th out of 61 countries according to the evaluation of climate change measures of each country conducted by several environmental NGOs.

Many Japanese companies have declared that they will decarbonize, but most of them set the deadline around 2050, and so it is dubious how much responsibility and pressure the current management are feeling to achieve this goal. However, I was a little encouraged by a news article in this morning's Nikkei Newspaper. Of the companies they surveyed, 43 have declared their intention to decarbonize by the 2030s. (Although, given the graveness and the urgency of climate change, 43 companies is far too small a number to start celebrating.)

When it comes to our company, People Focus Consulting, we are not in an industry that emits a lot of carbon dioxide, so we had not been that proactive in addressing the issue, taking few measures other than paper recycling. However, this year, when we decided to pursue B Corp certification, an "Environmental Committee" was formed to examine data on electricity, gas, water, waste, etc., and a reduction target has now been set. By switching to renewable energy sources for electricity and stopping the use of gas, we can generally achieve "decarbonization" at Scope 1 and 2 levels next year.

Our fiscal year runs from January to December, and it is almost time for each PFC employee to start thinking about our personal goals for the coming year. From now on, each of us will set goals not just for our regular duties, but also for how we will contribute to the environment and society.

Incidentally, one of my personal goals for this year is to become a vegetarian at least once a week. The livestock industry has a huge impact on the environment, and cow “burps” are known to emit methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Besides, I am an animal lover, and from the perspective of animal welfare, I would like to reduce meat consumption.

For the same reason, Paul McCartney has been calling for a "Meat Free Monday" movement since 2009.

To be honest, I am not doing so well this year so far, and my performance has been about once every two weeks. Next year, I am going to be more determined to pursue this goal. If there is anyone who would like to join me, let's do it together!