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Last Update:2024.02.16

The right way to proceed and think about decarbonization

To help you get the most out of our Green & Circular website, here we explain the basic "how to proceed and think about decarbonization". We are here to support you in many ways to make your decarbonization efforts quick, easy, and long-term.

All industries will be required to decarbonize.

When one hears the phrase "decarbonization efforts," one tends to think of it as the story of manufacturing industries and large corporations that emit large amounts of CO2. However, achieving carbon neutrality is not an easy goal, and it is an issue that all companies and individuals must work together to tackle. On the other hand, because emission levels and appropriate emission reduction methods vary from industry to industry, it is not a matter of uniformly implementing the same initiatives in all industries, but rather a matter of adapting to the unique characteristics of each industry.

Working on pre-regulation increases corporate value.

Traditionally, CO2 emissions have been regulated only for the company's own CO2 emissions, known as Scope 1 and 2. However, in recent years, it has become common practice in the private sector, such as under the International Accounting Standards, to publish "supply chain emissions," which include not only CO2 emissions from the company but also "Scope 3" (raw material procurement, manufacturing, distribution, sales, and disposal), and "life cycle assessment (LCA)," which summarizes these emissions by product. This is becoming more common as a private sector initiative, such as in accordance with international accounting standards. There are also moves on the part of governments to institutionalize such disclosure. Beyond that, detailed regulations and guidance on disclosure may be introduced for each industry.

In other words, looking to the future, one day your product or service could be deemed "high emission" and lose market value. Decarbonization efforts often take a year or two to show results, even at the energy-saving level, and often longer. No matter what industry you operate in, decarbonization efforts before regulations are implemented will help you become the resilient company that is needed in this era. By understanding the emissions of your supply chain, you can anticipate changes in the structure of your industry and improve your sustainability to increase your long-term corporate value and the confidence of your customers, employees, and investors.
Greenhouse Gas Protocol website
Greenhouse Gas Protocol website

What is the best way forward for decarbonization efforts?

When considering approaches to decarbonization, Mitsui recommends the following four steps: "identify" emissions, "reduce" resource use, "substitute" fossil fuels, and "absorb" CO2.

The first thing you need to do is "figure out your emissions."

The first step toward decarbonization is to "visualize" CO2 emissions, which will lead to the consideration and implementation of appropriate emission reduction measures. In addition, as mentioned above, suppliers will increasingly ask for documents and data related to CO2 emissions in order to understand supply chain emissions and emissions throughout the product lifecycle. Furthermore, an increasing number of companies are beginning to promote so-called "green procurement," which prioritizes the procurement of parts and products with a smaller environmental impact. The ability to promptly provide the necessary documents in such cases will be a major factor in advancing business.

Relatively easy to tackle: "saving on resource use"

Once you visualize your CO2 emissions, you can review the way you have been doing things and "optimize" your energy use. This can be replaced with energy conservation. Optimization can also include energy management using digital technologies such as IoT and AI, and in the manufacturing industry, avoiding wasteful production and switching to raw materials that have a smaller environmental impact.
Also effective is "resource recycling" (circular), in which products and raw materials that would otherwise be discarded are recovered as resources and reused. This concept has long been familiar to the Japanese, who are known for their "mottainai" spirit.
In addition to paper and plastic, the extraction and reuse of precious metals from discarded electronic devices, also known as urban mines, is already contributing to the saving of natural capital. If resource recycling is further promoted in the future, the amount of new resource input will be reduced, which in turn will lead to the reduction of CO2 emissions during resource production and other processes.

Fossil Fuel Alternatives" to leapfrog decarbonization.

A typical measure to reduce CO2 emissions is to replace energy sources with "renewable energy" (renewable energy) that emits less CO2. In addition, alternatives to hydrogen energy, such as FCVs (fuel cell vehicles) and low-carbon fuels, such as biofuels (microbial fermentation energy), are being considered in various parts of the automotive industry. These are being explored for the best method for each region and industry.

CO2 absorption" that cannot be reduced

CO2 that cannot be fully reduced through self-help efforts can be offset (compensated) in some way. Methods such as trading CO2 absorbed by forests as credits, CCS (Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage), which collects and stores the generated CO2 underground, and DAC (Direct Air Capture), which absorbs CO2 directly from the atmosphere, are being considered. CO2 is absorbed directly from the atmosphere.

Looking to the future and continuing to work on the project will produce results.

Climate change is an irreversible global issue, and decarbonization is a key challenge that must be addressed on an ongoing basis. CO2 emission reductions take time to take effect. CO2 emission reductions take time to take effect, but starting with what you can do and continuing to work on it will be the fastest path to carbon neutrality.
   Supervised by Takashi Hongo, Senior Research Fellow, Mitsui & Co.

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