1 COVID Pandemic and Climate Change

The coronavirus pandemic has become the subject of many discussions and debates. Its cause is almost certainly the viral infection of humans through vector animals, such as bats, as in the cases of Ebola and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Moreover, human active economic activities and the resulting climate change have almost certainly increased the opportunities for jungle viruses to have contact with humans.

The reason that the COVID-19 pandemic has spread to such an extent is largely due to the combined effects of population increase and globalization, which have enabled humans to expand their sphere of movement. In the past, many viruses used to be constrained within a limited space of the human habitat. The situation has changed entirely due to major transformations of the human community.

Moreover, in view of the relationship between climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, their similarities in political and social aspects suggest the enormity of the problems involved.

Firstly, there is the problem of politicizing the science. In many countries, such problem involves opinions such as “politicians do not listen to the opinions of scientists,” “as politicians do not listen to them, their citizens do not listen either,” and “the scientists with different opinions are those with political bias, so should be ignored.”

Secondly, there is the perception of risks. If any uncertainties are involved in the possibilities of health damage from coronavirus infection, people may perceive more of the uncertainties and less of the coronavirus infection possibilities, thereby ignoring the enormity of risks. In other words, they do not perceive coronavirus infection as a risk. This is the same as many people’s perception of climate change risks.

Thirdly, what I consider to be the greatest problem is the lack of awareness as an infection causer and no sense of responsibility. Many people do not think they can become coronavirus transmitters to cause a pandemic, and feel no sense of responsibility. The same can be said of climate change problems. Many people do not consider that the carbon dioxide (CO2) they emit as well as other greenhouse gases are sufficient to cause significant damage to other people and future generations.

As history shows, it is possible to overcome the current critical situation of the COVID-19 pandemic by developing collective herd immunity with vaccinations. Climate change, on the other hand, incurs an inherently longer term of criticality.

Stated below is the list of climate related news reported in the world media for 2 months of July and August, 2021, immediately before the time of writing this report.

  • In mid-July of 2021, torrential rainstorms lashed Europe, causing many rivers to overflow, and dikes collapsed. There were more than 100 casualties in Germany, and more than 20 in Belgium. The damaged areas included the Netherlands, Luxemburg, and Switzerland (BBC, July 17, 2021).

  • In mid-July of 2021, record-breaking rains of a “once in 1,000 years downpour” type struck China. The City of Zhengzhou in Henan Province had an amount of rainfall equivalent to their annual precipitation in a mere 3 days. The local government announced 302 deaths and 50 missing (Yomiuri Shimbun, August 2, 2021).

  • Early August, 2021, Turkey, Greece, and the Western United States had outbreaks of large-scale wildfires. Greece also had the most severe heat waves it had ever experienced in the past 30 years, hitting temperatures of 45 degrees C (BBC, Aug. 9, 2021).

  • In the case of Haiti, they had a major earthquake on August 14, 2021, followed by a direct strike from tropical storm “Grace” on August 16, which further aggravated the difficulties of securing water supply and evacuation sites. The occurrences of floods and landslides have worsened the situation of evacuees and victims, making humanitarian aid even more difficult (CNN, Aug. 18, 2021).

In Japan, an avalanche of rocks and soil struck Atami City in Shizuoka on July 3, 2021, which is, according to a media report, adversely affecting many lives and livelihoods in the area even in August.

2 Green New Deal as Today’s Global Trend

Today, many countries are trying to realize the Green New Deal or Green Recovery with the aim of building a resilient society, which makes it possible to achieve job creation and economic recovery, prevent the rebound of greenhouse gas emissions, and resist crises such as climate change and pandemics.

Former Vice President Biden assumed the office of the 46th President of the United States. Even before winning the election, President Biden presented the plan for the Green New Deal centered on renewables and energy saving. (In the United States, the term Green New Deal is more popular than the term Green Recovery. As both terms have almost the same contents, they are used synonymously in this report.)

As many people would deduce, the term “Green New Deal” is derived from the “New Deal” policy implemented by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt to overcome the Great Depression of 1929. It is a new phrase created by linking Green and New Deal. For these concepts, various people have presented various proposals. The fundamental pillar of such proposals embraces economic recovery (job increases) and global warming prevention through expanding the introduction of renewables and energy saving, as discussed above. Still, each proposal places different weights on economy, employment, and warming prevention, adopts different methods in procuring funds, and has a variety of political and economic concepts in the background. The introduction of renewables is given a dominant role in these proposals, which is interesting in a way, considering the historical coincidence of Roosevelt’s New Deal having the electrification of villages as its main pillar.

In the following paragraphs, I reflect on the history of the Green New Deal, in reference to the paper by Prof. Park Seung-Joon et al. of Kwansei Gakuin University (Park et al., 2020).

Green New Deal had two waves in its development period. The first wave was around the year 2008, when the so-called Lehman Shock (or the financial crisis of 2007–2008) struck the world. In July of 2008, the Green New Deal Group of the UK, an organization consisting of researchers and practitioners, published a document titled “A Green New Deal” as the collection of policies “to return the world from the melt-down of the economy and environment.” Later, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) published the “Global Green New Deal” in March 2009, suggesting the importance of investing 1% of global GDP, or 750 billion US$ (about 75 trillion Yen) into the following 5 fields: to improve energy efficiency of buildings; renewable energies; sustainable transportation; ecological infrastructures including water and forests; and sustainable agriculture such as organic farming. At that time, President Obama’s energy and global warming policies were also referred to as “Obama’s Green New Deal.” Unfortunately, these policies were not fully implemented. With the break-up of Copenhagen’s COP15 in December, 2009, the interests in global warming issues had started to weaken gradually by 2010. Afterwards, this first boom of the Green New Deal receded for a while.

3 Second Wave of Green New Deal

The second wave of the Green New Deal, however, has been entirely different from the first wave. The world situation has undergone significant changes, and the aspect of justice has become extremely important. The background to this second wave concerns seven facets of reality as follows: (1) widening gaps and rising unemployment; (2) more severe effects of climate change; (3) climate change widening the gaps; (4) widening of gaps by the climate change measures; (5) COVID pandemic; (6) resistance movements against various discrimination, such as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement; and (7) rapid decreases in the power generation costs of renewables.

Reality 1) widening gaps and rising unemployment require no explanation. In this world, the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening further, with the unemployment rate of youths remaining at a high level. Reality 2) requires no explanation either, as the extreme weather is no longer being so extreme.

Reality 3) widening gaps due to climate change and reality 4) widening gaps from climate change measures may require some explanation. Galvin and Healy (2020) have indicated the following reasons why the problem of widening gaps relates to, or has a synergy with, climate change measures and the Green New Deal: (i) the wider the gap between rich and poor, the greater the carbon dioxide emissions (the study indicated that a country with a greater difference between rich and poor tends to have more CO2 emissions per capita, and raising taxes on the rich and redistributing wealth to the poor can decrease the national gross total of CO2 emissions); (ii) big companies, especially those of higher energy consumption industries, emit more CO2, and hold bigger political sway with large vested interests; (iii) many of the climate change measures bring benefits to lower income people; (iv) however, one of the measures—carbon pricing (example: carbon tax)—can have a regressive effect, so it may have an adverse effect on low income people, if inappropriately introduced, and may instigate insurrection, such as the case of the Yellow Vest Movement in France; (v) unemployment and job losses among women, youth, non-whites, and indigenous people are quite severe, so the Green New Deal can contribute to the resolution of such problems. In other words, shrinking the gaps and diminishing the control of big companies will result in the reduction of emissions, but any climate change measures will likely fail, if these gaps are not addressed. (There are many ways to resolve any regressive effects of carbon pricing, such as across-the-board refunds of carbon tax revenues to lower income people.)

Needless to say, reality 5) the COVID-19 pandemic further widened gaps and increased job losses. Therefore, the Green New Deal may need to incorporate measures to redistribute wealth and to resolve poverty, including employment security programs and the concept of Basic Income (BI).

Reality 6) discrimination against gender, indigenous people, and LGBTQI+, as well as BLM will strengthen solidarity with climate change actions, as they share a common factor of justice. In other words, those taking actions to fight climate change start to participate in the actions to fight discrimination, such as BLM, while those acting for BLM and other movements start to join the actions to fight climate change. As the Green New Deal can broaden the scope of its effects, it is not a mere policy but the governing agenda to provide guidelines for public policy-making. It can be described as a philosophical framework to give new purpose to life for many people, while eliminating various hardships in life.

Reality 7) drastic cost-down of renewables, especially of solar and wind power generating costs, has transformed the Green New Deal from a “simple philosophy” to “economically rational industry policies.”

Analyzing such vast difference between the first wave and the second wave of the Green New Deal from the political and philosophical viewpoint, some describe the first wave as “(conservative) Keynesianism, eco-modernism, prioritizing corporations, technocratic, reformism, and green capitalism,” while defining the second wave as “radical, revolutionary, anti-imperialism, and socialistic,” arguing that the latter would be more preferable as global warming measures for our society. Of course, such argument has been subjected to strong attacks and criticisms from the conservatives and right-wing constituents, as “a dream,” “socialism hated by Americans,” and “the rejection of the American lifestyle.”

In August 2019, Senator Sanders published the details of his Green New Deal proposal on his own website. It proposed an extremely ambitious target to achieve 100% renewables for power and transport sectors by 2030, and full decarbonization of the economy by 2050 at the latest. One of the most notable features of Senator Sanders’ proposal was its gigantic scale of budget, which was 16.3 trillion dollars over 10 years (1770 trillion Yen: 177 trillion Yen per year).

As stated below, the Green New Deal requires a massive amount of investment, so the funding is always the problem. Sanders’ Green New Deal was to achieve the balance of income and expenditure within 15 years, and clearly indicated the actual financial resources and procurement amount. They included: (1) 3 trillion and 855 billion dollars from the abolishing of fossil fuel subsidies, imposing taxes on fossil fuel corporations, and enforcing penalties and lawsuits against polluters; (2) 1 trillion and 215.5 billion dollars from the reduction in military spending to protect oil transport routes; (3) 6 trillion and 400 billion dollars from the sales of electricity generated by renewables; (4) 2 trillion and 300 billion dollars in income taxes of 20 million new employees; (5) saving 1.31 trillion dollars in unemployment support programs with 20 million people getting new jobs from the expansion of renewable businesses; and (6) 2 trillion dollars by additional taxes on the rich and big companies.

The critics said such gigantic fiscal expenditures would likely result in hyper-inflation. However, Galvin and Healy (2020) indicated the economic rationale of Senator Sanders’ proposal, arguing that: (1) the possibility of hyper-inflation is rather small, considering the taxation amount and the scale of national bonds issued during wartime; and (2) taxation of the rich is likely to invite strong resistance, but their tax burden is at the same level as that of the rich in the 1960s and 1970s.

4 Japanese Version of Green New Deal

In Japan, then Prime Minister Suga announced on October 26, 2020, the new target of “carbon neutral by 2050” (net zero GHG emission). However, the “Green Growth Strategy accompanying carbon neutral by 2050” issued by the Japanese government on December 25, 2020, did not show any major changes from the existing target and policies, but rather contained an open indication to postpone measures required for “carbon neutral by 2050.”

Pressed by the Biden Administration of the US, Prime Minister Suga finally announced on April 22, 2021, a new target of “GHG emission reduction of 46% from the 2013 level by 2030.” According to a media report, the Japanese government has been reviewing an energy mix (scenario) to conform with this new target, including: to maintain the existing target of 20–22% for nuclear power; and to increase the share of renewables from the existing target of 22–24% to 36–38% (Sankei Shimbun, May 16, 2021). However, the groups of people who have been objecting to the introduction of renewables and energy saving and hoping to maintain nuclear power and coal thermals still have strong influential power. So the discussion on the energy mix is actually veering off track.

On Feb. 25, 2021, the “Energy Transformation Study Group for the Future,” in which I have been involved, issued “Report 2030: Green Recovery and a Roadmap to 2050 for Realizing Carbon Neutrality by 2030” (hereinafter referred to as Report 2030), as a Japanese Green New Deal (Study Group for the Future Energy Transformation, 2021). This Report 2030 contained the “Green Recovery Strategy (GR Strategy)” as a concrete scenario. The sections below describe the essence of the Report 2030 and GR Strategy, as an alternative to the existing energy and global warming policies of the Japanese Government. (Report 2030 itself is available for download at the following url: https://green-recovery-japan.org/).

The GR Strategy set the following as quantity targets.

4.1 Overall Energy Consumption

Energy savings to reduce end energy consumption by 40% in 2030 from the 2010 level, and by 62% in 2050 from the 2010 level (38% and 60% from the 2013 level, respectively).

4.2 Fossil Fuels and Nuclear

Year 2030: Reduce fossil fuels (primary energy) by about 60% from the 2010 level, and zero nuclear.

Year 2050: Reduce fossil fuels to zero (primary power sources are 100% renewables; about 80% of them using existing technologies, and about 20% using new technologies).

4.3 Electric Power

Year 2030: Energy savings to reduce power consumption by 30% from the 2010 level (zero coal thermal, zero nuclear, and 44% renewables) (28% reduction from the 2013 level).

Year 2050: Energy savings to reduce power consumption by approx. 40% from the 2010 level (100% renewables) (38% reduction from the 2013 level) Note: Power storage and other losses will necessitate greater power generation capacity.

By implementing these policies to meet the above targets, the following effects are expected:

  • Investment: Accumulated total of ≃202 Trillion Yen (TY) by 2030 (Private sector ≃151 TY, public sector ≃51 TY), and ≃340 TY by 2050

  • Economic effects: 205 TY by 2030 (Increases from official GDP estimates)

  • Job creation: ≃25.44 million jobs-year by 2030 (Maintain 2.54 million jobs/yr. for 10 years)

  • Energy cost reduction:≃358 TY (accumulated) by 2030 (Accum. 500 TY by 2050)

  • Fossil fuel import reduction:≃51.7 TY accumulated by 2030

  • CO2 emissions: 55% reduction from the 1990 level by 2030 (61% from the 2013 level), and 93% reduction from the 1990 level by 2050 (only with existing technologies; 100% reduction assuming the commercialization of new technologies)

  • Air pollution deaths avoided: Total of 2920 deaths from exposure to PM2.5 avoided by 2030

As far as the afore-mentioned “Green Growth Strategy accompanying carbon neutral by 2050,” which the Japanese Government announced in December 2020, is concerned, the Government merely commends the need for new technologies, which have not been commercially available, or whose applicability has been unclear, and indicates the possibility of providing subsidies for research and development. It seems almost certain that they will postpone the introduction of any concrete and effective measures. As a result, Japan will likely find significant increases in electric power consumption, energy consumption, fossil fuel imports, energy expenditures of corporations and homes, and energy source CO2 emissions, while an enormous amount of national revenues will flow out to overseas.

The GR Strategy, on the other hand, is to stop the operation of coal thermal power in 2030 (abolishment in 2035). Regarding nuclear power, it assumes zero nuclear by 2030. To achieve the target of “Carbon Neutral by 2050,” it is to use existing technologies to realize 93% of 100% emission reduction in energy source CO2 and the remaining 7% to be achieved by technologies that have not been commercially available today (mainly concerning these emissions from four sectors: airplanes, ships, long-distance ground transportation, and iron and steel/cement industry). Renewables and energy savings will make it possible to reduce fossil fuel imports and energy expenditures, thereby preventing the national revenues from flowing out to other countries.

The comparison between the accumulated amount of renewables and energy saving by 2030 and the amount of energy expenditure reductions (accumulated) for the period when investments continue to take effect indicates the latter will be far greater than the former. This means that the GR Strategy has significant economic rationality. Moreover, the investment amount discussed here is not the fund that will flow out to other countries, but the fund to be invested to activate the domestic economy in Japan (Table 1).

Table 1 Investment amount, economic effects, and CO2 emission reduction effects, etc. by 2030 under the GR Strategy

In addition, the comparison of value-added (GDP) between the case of implementing the GR Strategy by 2030 and the case of not implementing it indicates that the economic effects in terms of national value-added (GDP) will increase by 205 trillion Yen (accumulated) by 2030 when the GR Strategy is implemented by 2030.

The GR Strategy estimates that the existing technologies of energy savings and renewables alone can reduce emissions by 55% from the 1990 level by 2030 (61% reduction from the 2013 level), and 93% reduction from 1990 by 2050 (the reduction quantity in 2030 will be 714 million tons of CO2). For those areas with difficulty in reducing emissions by existing technologies alone (such as aviation fuels and marine fuels, high heat usage in raw material industries, like iron and steel), it is possible to attain 100% reduction (zero emission) if assuming the commercialization of new technologies (hydrogen reduction steel-making, hydrogen jet fuels, etc.), which are not applicable at present. Note that BAU here indicates the case in which activity volume, with fixed intensity, is increased corresponding to the Government’s long-term forecast for energy supply/demand.

This “93% emission reduction from the 1990 level in 2050 using only existing technologies of energy savings and renewables” is an extremely important number and a true statement. This is because what the government and industry leaders are advocating is a story of “innovative technologies being essential for Carbon Neutral by 2050. So far, the government has failed to quantify the extent of essentiality, and is unlikely to indicate the details even for the future. By keeping their statement ambiguous, they can easily use convenient excuses, such as “the research and development of innovative technologies did not go well,” or “research and development of technologies are difficult in the first place.” In this sense, the government is trying to create a new “myth,” and is strengthening their efforts to make innovative technologies their scapegoat.

5 Avoidance of Early Deaths Due to Air Pollution

In Report 2030, the accumulated number of early deaths from PM2.5 (micro particles that cause air pollution-based health damage) that would be avoidable by 2030 was calculated, in the case of implementing the GR Strategy. Here, the number of early deaths is the absolute number of deaths added to, or increased over, the number of deaths in the case of no air pollution. This can be called additional deaths or excess deaths. The number can be calculated using the death rate increase due to specific diseases caused by the exposure to air pollutants (for example: in the case of PM2.5, strokes, heart attacks, pulmonary cancer, etc.).

In Japan and throughout the world, scientific facts indicate that health damage from air pollutants is not a thing of the past. Rather, they have brought considerable damage in reality, and have become a threat that will inflict major damage in the future. For example, Cohen et al. (2017) estimated the number of early deaths from air pollutants such as PM2.5 emitted from coal power plants and automobiles in Japan as 61,000/year. The “Lancet Count-down” project of the UK’s medical journal the Lancet surveyed the health effects of global warming and identified the number of early deaths due to PM2.5 emitted from coal thermal power plants in each country. According to this project, Japan has 9.74 deaths/year per 1 million people due to PM2.5 emitted from coal thermal power plants (Watts et al., 2018). Assuming Japan’s population as 120 million, this is equivalent to about 1170 deaths per year.

Furthermore, the environmental standard of PM2.5 in Japan is an annual average of 15 μg/m3, which is more lenient than the one in the US (annual average of 12 μg/m3) and the one recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) (annual average of 5 μg/m3). In other words, Japan’s current situation is that, despite its environmental standard being more lenient than other countries, there are a number of air pollutant measuring stations that are unable to meet the standard.

One study indicated that, if Japan is to build 40 coal power plants planned for various sites after 2012 and to start their operations under such situation, there would be an additional 1175 early deaths (Green Peace Japan Climate Network, 2018).

Moreover, there are some papers published that estimated the diffused density of PM2.5 from specific coal thermal power plants in Italy (estimated for a shorter distance of 1 to 50 km), and calculated the number of deaths occurring among local residents.

Based on the above, the GR Strategy estimated the number of early deaths avoided, by using the number of early deaths due to PM2.5 emitted from coal thermal power plants in Japan, indicated in the Lancet (9.74 per year per 1 million people). Specifically, the accumulated number of early deaths by 2030 upon the implementation of the GR Strategy was calculated as 2920 deaths, based on the above number and the following two assumptions: (1) linear halving of PM2.5 emissions from coal thermal power plants in 2030 under governmental measures; and (2) linear zeroing under the GR Strategy.

In addition, our Report 2030 indicated quantitative and substantial facts about how the implementation of the GR Strategy “would not raise power costs when compared with government scenarios, and rather decreases after 2030,” and “would not cause any electric power deficiency in each power district.” Please refer to Report 2030 for details.

6 Job Transfers

Figure 1 illustrates the overall image of job transfers caused by energy transformation in Japan. First of all, the industrial statistics indicate that the number of laborers employed by 6 major CO2 emitting industries (power, iron and steel, cement, chemicals, oil refinery, and paper manufacturing and paper pulp industry) is about 150,000 people that would be affected by energy transformation. Adding about 50,000 employees of nuclear power plants (Japan Atomic Industrial Forum), the number of jobs to be affected by energy transformation of non-nuclear and de-fossil-fuels will be about 200,000 in total. On the other hand, there will be new jobs created, which future estimates calculated by applying the investment amount for energy transformation to an industrial input-output table indicate about 2.54 million jobs per year maintained for 10 years by 2030.

Fig. 1
figure 1

Illustration of job transfers caused by energy transformation in Japan

Moreover, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) indicates that the number of employees in renewable industries globally is about 11.5 million as of 2019 (50% or more increase over the number in 2012), which includes about 270,000 employees in the Japanese renewable industry in 2019. These numbers are systematically shown in Fig. 1.

Nonetheless, one can argue that the simple comparison of current jobs and future estimates is problematic. However, Fig. 1 allows us to grasp the image and sense of scale regarding how energy transformation and “Carbon Neutral by 2050” will affect the job situation. Actually, the Green Recovery Report (IRENA, 2020) of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) contains a graph similar to this Fig. 1. In their graph, it is indicated that, under IRENA’s energy transformation scenario to conform with the achievement of the 2 degrees C target, 5.49 million new jobs will be created worldwide in 2023 by the energy sector alone, mainly in renewables and energy savings, while 1.07 million workers in fossil fuels and nuclear industries will need to change their jobs.

In the case of the United States, a think-tank called E2 has indicated that in 2019 about 3.35 million workers in total are employed in five clean energy sectors of energy efficiency improvement, renewables, grid control and power storage, clean automobiles, and clean fuels (E2, 2020), which far exceeds the number of employees in fossil fuels and nuclear industries (approximately, 1.19 million and 70,000, respectively) (NASEO and Energy Future Initiative, 2019). As a whole, the number of jobs in clean energy sectors is on the increase, while that in fossil fuels and nuclear power generation industries is on the decrease. This means that the situation illustrated in Fig. 1 is becoming a reality.

Even if the overall number of jobs in a country as a whole increases, how to proceed with a smooth and “fair” transfer of jobs accompanying the energy transformation can be a common challenge for all those nations. Especially for the US, Canada, Russia, EU, China, Australia, and others, which are fossil fuel producers and have many domestic laborers working for the fossil fuel industry, it is an extremely serious issue. (For that reason, many studies suggest that Japan may become a relative “winner” in global warming measures.)

As concrete measures for “fair job transfers,” possible options include unemployment measures (social security, employment services, vocational trainings, and financial compensation), housing and education measures, creation of new localized jobs, and special measures for low-income people (for example, energy check program, which is to pay out energy subsidies uniformly to low-income people and local residents who inevitably use automobiles etc.). A simple monetary compensation for unemployed is insufficient. What is required is not a passive measure, but more active reach-out measures. To determine the most appropriate measures, it is necessary to consider various factors such as: regional differences between the locations of job creation and job losses; age groups of laborers; and the skills of laborers. Another possibility is to provide preferential treatment to those who start working for jobs related to renewables and energy savings. In short, extremely considerate measures are required.

Note that renewables, especially solar sharing and biomass power generation using local resources, have special features to supply stable localized jobs in villages and to contribute to the revitalization of local economies. Indeed, there is quantitative proof that the introduction of renewables will expand employment in the region. For example, Kuriyama et al. of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) indicated quantitatively that the introduction of renewables, especially in the Hokkaido and Tohoku regions, increases employment. Moreover, according to the empirical research works in Miyazaki Prefecture conducted by Hitachi Kyoto University Laboratory, which was established between Kyoto University and Hitachi Ltd., the economic circulation rate of regional society would be improved by 7.7 times, when comparing the case of regional renewables providing a 95% power self-sufficiency rate with the case of power supplies from existing power generation facilities.

Actually, about 90% of local communities in Japan have revenue/expenditure deficiency in energy utility payments (electric power, gas, gasoline, etc.). Moreover, according to the Ministry of Environment, 70% of local communities find their funds equivalent to 5% of regional gross products being flown out to other regions, and in the case of 151 local communities, the fund flow-out rate is 10% or higher. These situations will be greatly improved by the implementation of the GR Strategy.

From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, Japan experienced a period of significant energy transformation. At that time, the shifting of energy resources from coal to petroleum caused the closure of many coal mines and over 200,000 laborers lost their jobs. Japan overcame such a difficult time of energy transformation through extensive cooperation among governments, laborers, and employers. Specifically, the government enacted the “Act of temporary measures” and the “Act of employment measures” in response to the unemployment of coal mine workers, promoted the economy of coal mine regions, and implemented various measures including employment promotion housings and vocational trainings, pay-outs of allowances, and raising pensions. Still, many problems arose from the closures of coal mines.

It is difficult to make a simple comparison of job transfers from the energy transformation in the past with job transfers associated with current energy transformation, as the current case may affect much broader ranges. In terms of the number of totally unemployed and its scale, the job transfers associated with current energy transformation may be less than the job transfers from coal mine closures in Japan.

On the other hand, it is undeniable that the current energy transformation is progressing at an unexpectedly fast pace, including the global movements to ban the manufacturing and sales of gasoline cars. With the business environment invariably changing, companies must respond to secure their survival. In Japan, however, governments and companies tend to avoid the discussion of job transfers associated with energy transformation. If this continues, then it will not be possible for Japan to make a soft-landing for Carbon Neutral by 2050.

Note that our Report 2030 clearly and quantitatively proves that the implementation of the GR Strategy “does not raise the utility price of electric power in comparison with that of the government’s scenario and rather decreases after 2030,” and “does not cause electric power deficiency for any of the electric power districts.” Report 2030 aims to have careful and meticulous discussion on the possibility of realizing both “environment and economy,” rather than the simple choice of “environment or economy.” We take pride in preparing this Report 2030, for the first time in Japan, which discusses the wide-ranging factors in detail, including the investment amount, the number of jobs created, economic effects, relevant policies, electric power prices, supply/demand balance of power, employment issues, financial resource issues, etc. We hope that this Report 2030 will provide a good opportunity to deepen the discussions on energy and global warming issues in Japan.

7 Future Prospects

As discussed here, the Japanese government’s proposals for the Basic Plan of Energies and the Plan of Global Warming Measures contain regressive measures to prolong the use of nuclear power plants and fossil fuels, while incorporating the use of hydrogen, methane, and ammonia for fuels, Carbon Capture/Use/Storage (CCUS), and overseas carbon offsetting. In view of energy efficiencies and energy costs, however, the future of methane, ammonia, and CCUS is unclear, and overseas offsetting has problems in the acquisition of international certification.

In contrast to the governmental plans, our GR Strategy demonstrates how non-nuclear and no coal power policies have greater economic rationales in terms of employment, GDP, electric power cost, energy cost, effects of reducing air pollutants, etc., and even increase the reduction quantity of CO2 emissions. Unfortunately, however, today’s Japan does not have a suitable policy-making system to promptly accept such proposals.

Today, the business environment is rapidly changing far beyond what many people expected, especially necessitating companies to implement an urgent response and judgement in corporate management. A good example of such cases is electric vehicles.

As everyone knows, many countries have already decided, or been reviewing, the measures to prohibit the sales of gasoline-diesel cars, including hybrid cars, with Norway taking the lead to start in 2025, and the Netherlands, France, UK, Sweden, Spain, and others following suit to start the same during the period of 2025–2040. On July 15, 2021, the EU decided to ban the sales of gasoline-engine cars from 2035, and on July 22, 2021, Mercedes Benz announced that they would make every class of vehicle electric vehicles (EV). On August 5, 2021, US President Biden signed the Presidential Order to make the ratio of EV in new car sales 50%. In Germany, the automobile workers’ union, fearful of deteriorating international competitiveness in the future, requested to its government that “the investment on EVs should be expanded.”

Certainly, Japanese automobile manufacturers have overwhelming powers in competing in today’s automobile market. When the number of cars sold (in 2019) is divided into each automobile manufacturer, three out of the top 10 companies are Japanese companies. In the EV market, however, Japanese companies are doing poorer, with none of them reaching the top 10 of manufacturers. Moreover, Toyota Motors have drawn criticism in the US for “making donations to Republican members of the Congress to oppose the strengthening of CO2 regulations, in order to sell more hybrids” (New York Times, July 25, 2021).

It is difficult to decide how long they should continue implementing such strategy. First of all, EU and American manufacturers may accelerate their shift toward EV faster than expected. In addition, China, which is seen as the main battleground of the EV market in the future, is promoting the introduction of hybrid cars today, but may change their policy. The criticisms of hybrid cars may further escalate in the international community.

Actually, the regressive measures of Japanese companies and the Japanese Government are not the result of a careful and serious review process, nor the reason for the economic rationale. Japanese companies are dependent on governmental subsidies to promote research and development and demonstration tests of EVs. The purpose of governmental proposals is to maintain, for the moment, the existing structures and jobs of the energy and industry sectors, in consideration of Keidanren companies, which are the fundamental supporters of the government. There are no long-term prospects or strategies involved in their proposal. In that sense, it is like the regressive scenario of former US President Trump returning to the White House and everything going back to the drawing board.

The strategy of Japanese automobile manufacturers seems to raise as much profit as possible from the sales of hybrid cars, and uses them for research and development to respond to the rising EV market.

Remaining in the business-as-usual scenario, Japan will not be able to obtain the benefits of job increases and energy cost decrease from the investment in renewables and energy savings. Continuing to maintain coal thermal power plants is likely to invite rising criticism from the international community, while stalling the transformation of industrial structures, and companies losing their international competitiveness. If automobile manufacturers fail to grasp the best timing to shift toward EVs, the scenario of their decline may become more realistic. That may be the ultimate destination of the energy and climate change policies of today’s government.