Japanese technology could help

Japan is renowned for its technological innovation and is now looking to use this edge to help fight climate change. How does Japan plan to achieve this and will this be technology that will be available to other countries as well? We need to share our ideas and have a sense of participation as well as a sense of benefit. The whole world will lose if we cannot succeed. As far as the assistance to developing countries is concerned, this is on a government basis and is easy, as our government is very interested in transferring technology. But much of the technology is in the possession of private companies and, in that case, a transfer is a commercial transaction. Investment in the public sector is important. Japan is going to invest $30 billion over the next five years. We encourage other countries to do the same so that once technology is in the public sector, it can be transferred more easily. Like other countries, Japan has also come in for criticism over its emissions but there appears to be a drive for change. What is Japan’s motivating force in combating climate change? We had very rapid development in the late 1950s and in the 1960s and the outcome was obvious: The air was polluted, the rivers were polluted and people could see this. We made an independent government agency for the environment in 1971 and, since then, environmental protection has been a priority. Also, industry responded to the oil crisis of the 1970s by trying harder to use less oil and be more efficient. This awareness and experience can drive us to work with others on this basis as well. For a country with so many hours of sunshine, Greece has been slow to make use of solar energy. Solar water heaters, which were available some 30 years ago, are still the main way that Greek households benefit from solar energy. What can Greece learn from Japan in terms of making better use of its renewable energy sources? We have some problems as well in expanding renewable energy sources. The first area is pricing. How do you set a price? I understand there are many companies interested in setting up photovoltaic generation here. This is a long-term investment because it requires a large amount of money. In some European countries, they guarantee a fixed price for 25 or 30 years, here in Greece it’s 10 years. So, I think it would be better for Greece to set prices at an international level and that would create more investment. The second area is innovation. Existing technology is still expensive and not as efficient as we would like. We should improve the technology. Another thing that Greece has plenty of is wind. Japanese companies have tried in the past to get involved in the construction of wind parks here but the projects have never come to fruition. Why is that? The existing law on the environment says that any development should be based on the land zoning plan. We think the Greek government should have enacted a land zoning plan much much earlier. The lack of a legal basis is a big drawback. Also, there are too many procedures. They should be streamlined. The government has a lot to do. Another issue is the local community. I think many Greeks support renewable energy but, once it comes to their area, people say «no.» We need good support from the local community. These are the two main issues.