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Views from the World
Energy Security and Global Warming
Michael Knipe, Journalist/Editorial Consultant
(Keizai Koho, January 2008 issue)

An industrial competition to design and construct one of the world's first clean-coal plants is being launched in the United Kingdom in November. (Note to sub-editor: this month/last month depending on publication date).
A month earlier (October) the London government announced a large-scale investment in the development of a new generation of off-shore wind turbines in Northumberland in the north-east of England.
At the other end of the country, an innovative device called a Wave Hub has been deposited on the sea-bed, ten miles off the coast of Cornwall, in a £20 million ($40 million) exercise to deliver a prototype infrastructure to develop wave-energy on a commercial scale.
All three projects are among a wide range of initiatives aimed at increasing the country's efficiency in energy production, as it tackles the twin problems of enhancing the security of energy supplies while combating global warming.
Energy security and climate change are now inextricably linked and wind-power, wave-power, clean-coal, and nuclear power are all to be utilized to ensure that both issues can be tackled successfully.
For the UK and Japan, as leading industrialised island nations reliant on their international trade, global warming will clearly have serious repercussions. At the same time, demand for energy is unlikely to decrease in the near future. The challenge for both governments, therefore, is to maintain a secure and affordable supply of energy while at the same time adopting measures to combat global warming.
With almost no natural resources, Japan has long been coping with the problem of maintaining reliable supplies of energy. For the UK it is a slightly newer concern. During the past 30 years the country's energy needs have been eased by the availability of oil and gas from its own North Sea sources. But these are being exhausted. Within a few years, Britain will change from being a net exporter of energy to a net importer. So energy security is a matter of acute concern in London, as it is in Tokyo.
Public awareness of the vulnerability of energy supplies gathered pace in Europe two years ago when Russia cut off supplies of gas to Ukraine after failing to resolve a dispute over the price to be paid. Within days supplies to Hungary and Poland were disrupted.
There was alarm throughout the European Union because a quarter of the union's gas comes from Russia with 80 percent coming through pipelines crossing Ukraine.
To maintain the security of its supplies of energy, the UK, like Japan, has for many years supported United States efforts to ensure stability in the Middle East, where its main suppliers are situated and to diversify, wherever possible, its sources of supply.
In this respect the UK has been courting the oil-and-gas-rich Central Asian countries around the Caspian Sea. UK oil and gas companies are playing a leading role in the development of costly pipeline projects in the region.
A consortium of energy companies led by BP owns a $20 billion, 1,776 km-long Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline - the second longest in the world - which transports crude oil from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.
Another system, the South Caucasus Pipeline, transports natural gas from the Shah Deniz gas field in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea to Turkey, from where it may eventually be shipped onwards to Europe, once the necessary infrastructure is built.
However worries over global warming have added another strategic dimension to the energy security issue beyond mere pipelines: the need to accelerate the use of alternative and renewable energy supplies.
The UK, along with its 26 fellow member-states of the European Union, agreed last March, to a series of commitments aimed at combating global warming while at the same time reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
These are to achieve a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, to obtain 20 percent of the union's energy from renewable sources by the same date; to increase energy efficiency by 20 percent; and to have 10 percent of its transport powered by bio-fuels.
The British government's view is that the threat of global warming and its consequences have been so firmly spelled out by the international scientific community that the time has come for action rather simply discussion.
When the United Nations conference on climate change convenes in Bali in December the aim will be to establish, within a two-year time period, a practical international framework for combating global warming beyond
2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expires.
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is as firmly committed to combating global warming as his predecessor, Tony Blair.
The UK will argue at the Bali meeting that reductions of carbon emissions cannot be achieved on a voluntary basis but must be the subject of a mandatory cap.
The London government's view is that leadership from the governments of developed countries should set technological standards for a future of low carbon economy governments.
Transforming the global economy into a low-carbon, energy efficient operation will be an enormous undertaking. But it is one that will create a range of new industries and many new jobs.
The governments and business enterprises that move first will gain the greatest commercial advantage.
Governments will be required to achieve a blend of incentives, regulations and investment that will open up opportunities for the private sector.
The business community will have a choice: to accept the economic devastation of an unstable climate or engage in the process of forming those global agreements.
Major investments will be required in technologies that will lay down a path to the commercial development of low carbon economies.
The UK and Japan are both well placed to take advantage of such business opportunities.
With their technological infrastructure and experience they should become world leaders in low-carbon goods and services.
The two countries have a ready-made strategic partnership. And, in Gordon Brown and Yasuo Fukuda, both have new prime ministers who should leap at the chance of assuming international leadership roles in the energy security/global warming debates that will dominate the agenda next year when Japan assumes the presidency of the G8.



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