Recently, we reported on the totally bonkers remarks by Akio Toyoda, who heads Toyota, the giant global automaker founded by his grandfather. Toyoda is completely unhinged when it comes to the future, claiming that electric cars create more carbon pollution than conventional cars and will crash the electrical grid if there are too many of them. Crazy stuff, actually, for someone who has the power to influence the future of transportation in meaningful ways.
Not only is Toyoda-san out of step with reality in the business world, it now appears his thinking is at odds with that of his own government. According to Kyodo News, the Japanese government pledged on Christmas Day to become a carbon neutral nation by 2050. It listed 14 key elements that will be part of its decarbonization plan, which include banning gasoline powered cars by 2035 if not sooner (but not plug-in hybrids), expanding the number of EV charging locations, and increasing the country’s offshore wind capacity from about 2 gigawatts today to 10 gigawatts in 2030 and up to 45 gigawatts in 2040.
The government also plans to commercialize gas turbine power generators using hydrogen and promote fuel cell technology to power the heavy trucks that typically rely on diesel engines today. It also wants to sequester carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere by adding it to the process that makes concrete.
Unlike the United States, where many government and business leaders see every dollar spent on electric cars and renewable energy as a dollar wasted, the Japanese government estimates its plan will generate economic benefits worth about $900 billion in 2030 and $1.8 trillion in 2050. Those numbers include sales and investment created by new demand. Under its “green growth strategy,” which will focus on decarbonization and electrification of Japanese society, the government will extend support for the private sector to help attain the goal of reducing net carbon dioxide emissions to zero by mid-century.
“The era in which dealing with global warming is regarded as a restriction on economic growth has come to an end. Now is the time when we consider it as an opportunity for growth,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said during a panel discussion about the new climate action plan. “The government has to prepare an environment where businesses can feel it is easier to take on bold challenges by providing an outlook as specific as possible and showing our attitude of continuous support,” he said. The panel plans to work out details of the strategy by next summer. After that, relevant financial goals will be established.
The December 25 announcement is just a broad brush vision for the future. Details are sparse at the moment. Perhaps the highlight of the new Japanese government initiative is that it recognizes working toward a sustainable environment will create wealth rather than destroy it. Now if only it could send a copy of this latest climate strategy to Akio Toyoda so he could begin dragging himself, and the company he heads, kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
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