The slowing of economies around the world — in both developed and emerging nations — is a reminder that we cannot sit back and wait for growth to happen. Instead, leaders must continuously push for reform and innovation, while also being mindful of the global impact that their policies are having.
But with so many challenges facing the international community, what should our priorities be? And how can we work together to turn these priorities into reality? Those are the big questions facing international leaders as they gather for this year’s G7 summit, being held in Germany starting on Sunday.
However, although the discussions at the summit will be wide-ranging, there are three key issues that I will be emphasizing at the G7, issues where I believe Japan can play a central role.
Climate change. The G7 summit is an ideal forum for leaders to coordinate their climate change strategies as we try to draw up an international framework ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP21) taking place later this year. I am aiming to set goals comparable to those of the other G7 nations. They are also ambitious, and we believe they are achievable with the technology and measures we are implementing.
How can they be described as comparable to other G7 nations’ targets and also ambitious in the same breath? At the summit, I will be proposing a goal of a 26% reduction (25% reduction relative to our 2005 emissions) in greenhouse gases by 2030 relative to our most recent emissions. This compares with the EU’s goal of a 24% reduction and the U.S. target of reductions of between 18% and 21% by 2025, relative to their most recent emissions.
Indeed, Japan’s energy consumption per unit of GDP is already some 30% less than the average of other G7 nations, making it a top performer in the world. And we want to do even better — we will aim for a 35% improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. We believe this will be possible through the greater use of renewable energy — including a seven-fold increase on our current solar energy capacity, and a four-fold increase in our wind and geothermal capacity.
I am not content to rest on Japan’s past achievements, and we will continue to work toward concrete actions on reducing emissions. It is important that we act, because climate change is becoming an increasingly serious problem for all nations, developed and developing alike — we are already seeing some emerging nations emitting more greenhouse gas than developed nations. The biggest challenge is for major emitters like China and India to pledge emission reductions under an international framework, recognizing the seriousness of the issue for themselves.
Japan will help vulnerable developing nations make progress on emissions. In fact, we pledged assistance of about $16 billion over three years from 2013, and met this goal in about a year and a half. We will also contribute $1.5 billion to the Green Climate Fund, second only to the United States. In addition, through the application of Japan’s advanced technologies, we expect the world to increase its energy efficiency and reduce global greenhouse gas emission dramatically. Moreover, I also proposed the Innovation for Cool Earth Forum (ICEF) to promote innovation in energy and the environment through the cooperation of industry, academia, and government around the globe. The ICEF’s first meeting last year hosted 800 participants from 80 countries, and to build on this success we will convene the forum annually.
It is our generation’s duty to pass along a beautiful planet to future generations, and I am determined that Japan will spearhead those efforts.
Quality infrastructure. To sustain high quality growth that can enhance well-being now and in the future, then developing countries will need high quality infrastructure in place.
In Asia alone there is a need for some $1 trillion per year in infrastructure investment. And while quality new infrastructure might at first seem costly, in the long run it will prove to be more cost-effective, more durable, more resistant to natural disasters, and more environmentally friendly, too.
But ensuring we have the capital to fund this investment will mean mobilizing a variety of private sector funding. I therefore welcome the Asian Development Bank (ADB) expanding its investment and lending capacity. To bolster these efforts, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in collaboration with the ADB, will consider a mechanism for efficient collaboration, including co-financing, on Asian public private partnership (PPP) infrastructure projects. We will promote investments in quality infrastructure globally. Within Asia, in collaboration with the ADB, Japan will provide innovative infrastructure financing of about $110 billion in total over the next five years.
Health and medicine. Finally, Japan recognizes that one of the best ways to improve conditions in developing countries is to improve health and medical care, something we believe we are well-placed to do with our world-leading medical treatments.
Already these past two years, we have invited female African entrepreneurs to Japan for training and networking opportunities, while in Mozambique, we cooperated in training nurses and in improving the quality of medical care for pregnant women and nursing mothers. In addition, Japan is steadily implementing around $3 billion in assistance over three years from 2013 to help women around the world access medical care and education.
Thinking ahead, in 2013, the Japanese government, together with pharmaceutical companies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established a fund for promoting research and development of medical products for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
The importance of planning for disease outbreaks was made clear with the Ebola virus. Last year, Japanese doctors were dispatched to Ebola-affected areas and some $170 million in assistance has been disbursed to help combat the virus. Meanwhile, building on the country’s advanced technology, Japan has also developed an antiviral drug (T-705, or Favipiravir) to help treat Ebola, and provided rapid diagnostic test kits that were developed by a Japanese university. In addition, 720,000 sets of personal protective equipment provided by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government have been delivered to four African nations, with 20,000 sets transported to Ghana by Japan Self-Defense Force aircraft.
I believe all of these investments — in health, infrastructure and our environment — will help improve conditions for emerging and developed countries alike. Next year, Japan will assume the G7 presidency. But before then, I hope that by working closely with other G7 leaders we can have fruitful discussions on addressing all of these important issues, building on the outcome of the Schloss Elmau Summit.
Shinzo Abe is the prime minister of Japan. The views expressed are his own.