- Energy Policy
- Work Style Reform
- Response to COVID-19
- Building National Resilience
- Re-election of Tokyo Governor, Yuriko Koike
Deliberation of the next Basic Energy Plan is about to begin, as is debate on the state of energy policy in the Council on Investments for the Future. The energy mix described in the current Basic Energy Plan has not been realized. Moreover, Japan's nuclear and thermal power plants continue to age. We need the development of an energy policy that will facilitate more investment in electric power, including renewable energy and R&D spending, even in the midst of a shrinking electricity market.
At today's meeting of the Chairman and Vice Chairs, we shared our basic stances and thinking on responses to climate change and energy issues. We will use that discussion as the basis for our response to upcoming debate in the government and other quarters.
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Hiroshi Kajiyama, has given instructions to consider the closure or mothballing of inefficient coal-fired power plants (July 3, 2020). This is an established line of policy and, given the recommissioning of older coal-fired power plants to augment power supply after the suspension of nuclear power plants, I, personally, am not surprised. This move is a step forward in terms of responding to criticisms that coal-fired power plants have high CO2 emissions per unit of electric power generated.
Japan's ultra-supercritical (USC) coal-fired power generation is highly efficient, but it uses different materials and is quite expensive. Given the trend toward investment in ESG, we should take note that Japan has been the target of harsh criticism from overseas regarding the government's support for the export of coal-fired power plants.
Work Style Reform
The coronavirus crisis has prompted Japanese companies to reexamine the way their employees work, a move that has included the introduction of remote work. While this has resulted in clear benefits in the form of productivity improvements, on the other hand, it has also highlighted bottlenecks and problems in the areas of time management and equipment environments for working from home. Coming up with concrete ways to reimagine working styles in Japan is a task for future deliberation, but to speed up reforms to achieve work styles that are flexible and increase worker engagement, Keidanren will pursue the consideration of the review of the Labor Standards Act, based on a more systematic positioning of remote work, as well as strict time management.
Response to COVID-19
The number of new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area has exceeded 100 for five days straight. In my view, this would not be described as an explosive expansion of the contagion. With Japan's strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 centering on individual codes of behavior, a certain increase in new cases is to be expected. All we can do is to keep asking individuals to behave mindfully, including avoiding the Three Cs (closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places, and close-contact settings such as close-range conversations), handwashing, and wearing masks. The business community will continue to coordinate with the national and local governments to deal with this crisis.
Regarding the employment situation, although few people have lost their jobs completely, the number of people whose employment has been suspended has increased, and there is no cause for optimism. The employment adjustment subsidy and other fiscal support measures will not continue indefinitely. If bankruptcies and business closures increase, maintaining employment levels will be out of the question. Timely and effective measures should be taken, while closely monitoring the situation.
Building National Resilience
With major natural disasters occurring in various parts of Japan seemingly on an annual basis, there is a need to review the social infrastructure that was developed during Japan's period of rapid economic growth, particularly flood-control measures. The situation with the recent deluges in Kyushu is extremely serious, with many people losing their lives. Building national resilience is a challenge of the utmost urgency and we hope to discuss these issues with the government and develop measures to deal with them.
Re-election of Tokyo Governor, Yuriko Koike
Keidanren has long shared the same recognition of various issues with Governor Koike, including the realization of Society 5.0 and the strengthening of Tokyo's international competitiveness. There are many challenges that we must address together, including the response to COVID-19 and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, so we hope to strengthen our cooperative relationship with the Governor.