Japan’s risky new resource strategy

An Aurizon coal train travels through the countryside in Muswellbrook, north of Sydney, Australia, 9 April 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed).

Author: Llewelyn Hughes, ANU

The second Japan–Australia Economic Ministerial Dialogue was held on 10 January in Melbourne. Before the meeting, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama described Australia as a key strategic partner for Japan. The Minister noted this year’s discussions focus on collaboration in hydrogen and ‘carbon-recycling’, in addition to trade and other issues.

The introduction of ‘carbon recycling’ to Australia–Japan bilateral dialogue reflects a big change in Japan’s international resources strategy.

Japan has spent huge sums of money on energy security policies to diversify the energy sources used to fuel its economy, and the locations from which it imports fuel. The Japanese nuclear power program was a central plank of this mission prior to the Fukushima tsunami and nuclear disaster of 2011.

The Japanese government is now tackling climate change in its resource strategy by introducing a suite of policies it labels ‘carbon recycling’. In doing so, Japan is linking its technology-centred approach to climate change mitigation to long-standing energy security policies that enjoy legitimacy across all branches of government.

Australia as a key partner

Japan’s ‘carbon recycling’ agenda includes support for technologies designed to capture carbon dioxide and use it to generate a range of commodities including chemicals, fuels and concrete products.

Australia has long been a partner in Japan’s resource strategy, gaining billions of dollars in investment in natural gas, coal, and increasingly rare earth elements. It is emerging as a key partner in the new ‘carbon recycling’ initiative.

On 25 September 2019, the then minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to explore joint research and development into technologies that see ‘carbon dioxide as a resource, rather than viewing it merely as a waste product’. The Japan–Australia Energy and Resources Dialogue was …continue reading