Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

Japans sustainable future – what comes after Fukushima?

Written by on . Published in Democracy's green challenge

This interview was done in the context of Mr. Tezuka lecture at the European Center for Sustainability Research in February this year.


Japanese steel- and ironwork industry is one of the largest worldwide, at the same time it is one of the most energy-intensive industries. How does, also in view of rising energy prices, the future of your industry look like?

The steelmaking process with a blast furnace uses coal as a reducing agent to make iron from iron ore. Modern Japanese steel works are almost energy self-sufficient; they use heat/byproduct gas from coal to make process heat and electricity. We even sell electricity to public grid from our process. As far as coking coal is available, we have no problem with making steel, even though the process is very much energy intensive. (This is the case with Japanese steel industry. Other region waste such internal energy and purchase oil, gas and electricity from outside.) The recent price hike of coal is a problem, but it may settle down since coal is abundant. Scrap recycling to an electric arc furnace is another solution, but this is mostly the case with developed countries where abandunt scrap is available.

What will be realistic approach to enable growth in Asia in a sustainable way?

Per capita steel consumption in China is about 450kg while that of Japan and Korea are around 600-800kg. India is still less than 100kg. As their economies grow, steel consumption will inevitably grow. The sustainable development is only achievedby the most efficient processes, from which they can produce necessary steel through minimum usage of coal, ore and energy. So the critical issue is: What kind of facilities will they build in the decades to come?

How did Fukushima influenced your industry and climate policy in Japan in general?

Japan is now facing a serious dilemma. A strong anti-nuclear movement prohibits restarting the shut-down nuclear reactors.Now very expensive natural gas and oil, purchased in spot-price deals, are replacing nuclear power. Sufficient power supply, affordable energy cost and CO2 mitigation are mutually incompatible tri-lemma. The Government of Japan is developing options for long-term energy supply; these will be debated by late Spring and the final decision will be made in the Summer.My guess is that we will restart some of the newer reactors to fill 15-20% of power supply (30% before Fukushima Accident, plan to be 50% by 2030), and increase natural gas to fill the shortage. This automatically means a less ambitious Climate Change policy.

Last question: being personally involved in the debate on post-Kyoto climate change policy, what can the world learn from Japans steel- and ironwork industry on it´s reform to a sustainable development?

Steel (and energy) is necessary for sustainable social development. What the world can learn from Japanese industry is themost efficient way of producing steel with the lowest energy intensity and the best material intensity. Though the initial investment may be more costly, this may be the better approach in the longer term, because in this way, material/energy waste can be saved and they can be used for wealth creation.

Hiroyuki Tezuka is General Manager, Climate Change Policy Group at JFE Steel Corporation and the Chairman of Working Group on Global Environment Strategy under Committee on Environment and Safety, KEIDANREN Association. He received his MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his BE on Applied Physics from The University of Tokyo. Tezuka has spent years in the United States under various capacities including a Visiting Fellow at The Brookings Institution and the Assistant to CEO at National Steel Corporation. He also wrote various books and articles on Climate Policy and Global Management, including “Game-riron Katsuyouhou” (How to use Game theory in business) and “Saiseikanou Energy ha Genpatu wo Daitai Dekiruka?”(Is Renewable Energy able to replace Nuclear Power?) and was a Co-Author of The Hartwell Paper.

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Manouchehr Shamsrizi

Manouchehr Shamsrizi (24) is a Global Justice Fellow at Yale University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts as well as the Institute of Cultural Diplomacy. His academic activities includes membership in several think-tanks including the "beta-group" of ZEIT Foundation, Google's Co:llaboratory, the German Council on Foreign Affairs, Siemens "Future Influencer", British Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Wilton Park’s Atlantic Youth ForumWilton Park's Atlantic Youth Forum and the "Yunus Brainpool", a Generation Y advisory board of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Creative Lab. He was elected a "European Future Leader", a "One Young World Ambassador", a "Leading Digital Native" (IBM), a "Sandbox Global Ambassador" and twice a "Leader of Tomorrow" at the St. Gallen Symposium. Manouchehr is a strategist for StartUps, especially consulting Private Equity firms and VCs. He is dramaturg of the "Center for Political Beauty" (Zentrum für Politische Schönheit), consisting of more than one hundred performance artist as well as a Senior Advisor to the "What took you so long" Foundation's disruptive-filmmaking Team. His first directed play (“incipit parodiae – wir zweifeln zuwenig und zuviel”) was perform first at the MorgenLand Festival at TAK Liechtenstein. He published on geopolitical, sociological and philosophical issues, is columnist of the REVUE - Magazine for the Next Society and was a speaker at universities as well as TEDx. Manouchehr holds a BA in Political Science, Economics and Cultural Studies from Zeppelin University (where he was also the coordinator of the European Center for Sustainability Research) and is a student of Humboldt-Viadrina School of Governance's Master of Public Policy class of 2014.