Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who has been insisting on moving away from reliance on nuclear power, has begun seeking opportunities for demonstrating his originality since early this year. He attended the Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) held in the United Arab Emirates on Jan. 14. The minister has also set up within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs an expert panel on countermeasures against global warming and ordered the panel to hurriedly submit opinions. Since taking office last August, Kono has restrained himself from making radical remarks, but bearing in mind the Basic Energy Plan to be put together by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry by the end of March, Kono apparently intends to demonstrate his influence.
Eager for renewable energy
At the IRENA Assembly on Jan. 14, Kono made remarks about Japan’s policy for utilizing renewable energy, saying, “Without fully understanding the global movement toward renewable energy, Japan has only taken makeshift measures.” In this way, Kono criticized Japan. “Keeping this in mind, I want to declare that Japan will take consistent measures with a long-term perspective,” said the minister, emphasizing to promote the utilization of renewable energy and contribute to supporting developing countries with Japan’s technological capability.
Kono’s attendance at the IRENA Assembly, the first time ever for Japan’s foreign minister, was realized by his strong desire. “I will absolutely attend the assembly, no matter what.” Late last year, Kono instructed his staff to prepare for him to attend the IRENA Assembly as one of the New Year’s foreign trips. As a result, the already scheduled visit to India was changed to the UAE.
The reason why Kono is eager for “diplomacy for renewable energy” is that he wants to exert his influence on the Basic Energy Plan for Japan.
Kono’s aiming to “end reliance on nuclear power”?
Under the plan, Japan is supposed to reduce the ratio of nuclear power generation to 20% to 22% of the overall power generation by 2030 and increase renewable energy to 22% to 24%. Before taking office, Kono, in his blog, expressed his dissatisfaction with METI’s numerical targets for renewable energy, saying “Although the target will likely be achieved earlier than scheduled, the ministry failed to present a new target.” His intention behind this comment seems to further reduce the ratio of nuclear power generation through a further increase in the proportion of renewable energy.
MOFA set up on Jan. 9 an expert panel on climate change. The panel’s establishment is said to be based on Kono’s top-down decision and he asked the panel to come up with proposals within February. It is unprecedentedly speedy for a government panel to put together proposals in two months, which also indicates that Kono is aware of METI’s scheduled review of its Basic Energy Plan in March.
Since becoming MOFA minister, Kono has been lauded for his realistic stance over the North Korea issue and diplomacy toward China. He is now referred to as a candidate for the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). He has refrained from saying anything radical, such as his advocacy of phasing out nuclear power and reducing Japan’s official development assistance by half.
However, Kono has demonstrated his presence by denying the LDP’s traditional policies, so only playing safe could lead him to becoming a forgotten politician. At a meeting of the expert panel held on Jan. 9, Kono sounded as if to encourage himself, “If you say you’re in this position, so you will only argue this say or you can only argue like this, we cannot go ahead with any argument in Japan.”