Renewables Update

Energy Policy, for Ordinary People, by Ordinary People

7 February 2014 Takejiro Sueyoshi, Executive Board Vice Chair, Japan Renewable Energy Foundation

The Earth is heading for a crisis. Of course, the earth is a nonliving thing, so this does not mean that it will collapse. Rather, this crisis is that the Earth may cease to function as a life-supporting system. A range of problems are responsible for this, including global warming, destruction of biodiversity, and the depletion of natural resources. As well as this, the global society is also facing the daunting challenges of extreme poverty, widening income inequalities, abuse of human rights and the spread of infectious diseases.

The crisis is becoming increasingly serious, but the world is not just sitting back and watching idly. The transition of the global economy is finally here. The growth-focused Brown Economy has brought this crisis on the world, and only a complete departure from this model will lead to real resolution.

Then, how has the Brown Economy been related to energy policy thus far? It has promoted the use of as much energy as people want at any time, at low cost, delivering easy and comfortable lives to people, and encouraging economic growth based on this. In other words, conventional energy policy embraced the Brown Economy and together supported the model of mass production and mass disposal. These policies are just as responsible for the crisis as the Brown Economy.

It may not be necessary to mention, but energy moves society forward and supports economic activities. As an integral part of the economy and society, transformation of the economy can be done only accompanied by change in energy policy. The economy of the twenty-first century must be made greener, and its energy policy should be designed to accelerate a shift from the Brown Economy to a Green Economy. Only if that happens can the Earth be saved from this crisis, and its irreplaceable functions as a life-supporting system be made sustainable.

The Japanese folktale Momotaro (Peach Boy) begins as follows: “Once upon a time, there lived an old man and his wife. One day, he went woodcutting in the forest, and she went to the river to wash clothes.” The story entails an important lesson. As clearly mentioned in the story, in the olden days, people procured energy resources by themselves. But over the course of time, this practice has turned into a big business. As a result, people compromised their energy choices, an inherent right, in exchange for convenience.

Looking at the world today, people have again embarked on a search for energy sources within their means in their communities or on an individual level. Under such circumstances, energy policy is no longer a matter for experts alone. Ordinary citizens are getting more involved in policymaking. The move is sparking discussions on the subject not from considerations of money, but based on their perspectives on life, ethics, and social equity.

Japan must revamp its anachronistic energy policy. Otherwise, it will be left behind in the global trend toward a greener economy.

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