With Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledging to bring Japan's carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050, a growing number of Japanese companies are looking at how they can make a bigger contribution to curbing global warming.

As investors scrutinize how firms address environmental issues, sustainability and governance, Japanese trading houses are reviewing business strategies by reducing their traditionally heavy reliance on natural resources as a major source of profits.

Pre-recorded video of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga played at an online meeting with world leaders for the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate agreement on Dec. 13, 2020. (Photo courtesy of United Nations)(Kyodo)

Itochu Corp. is selling its 20 percent stake in a coal mine in Colombia to Drummond Company Inc., a U.S. coal producer that owns the remaining 80 percent, as part of efforts to promote decarbonization.

To highlight its commitment to tackling environmental issues, Itochu is now preparing to issue SDG bonds targeting overseas investors, the first by a Japanese trading house, by around April, a company official said.

Although details have yet to be worked out, the funds to be raised will likely be used to promote renewable energy among other green initiatives, the official said.

Such bonds are meant to help attain the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, which are intended to address a host of issues from climate change to poverty.

Itochu is not alone in putting more focus on reducing CO2 emissions. Mitsubishi Corp., another Japanese trading house, has invested in Canada's CarbonCure Technologies Inc. to promote low-carbon concrete in the construction industry in Japan and other parts of Asia.

CarbonCure Technologies has a technology to inject recycled CO2 into fresh concrete, which will then undergo a mineralization process and become stronger.

The production of cement, a key ingredient in concrete, is one of the major contributors to CO2 emissions.

According to a recent survey by Teikoku Databank Ltd., the percentage of companies that regard efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions as part of their social corporate responsibility or as necessary to build "good relations" with stakeholders was higher among big companies than smaller ones.

Still, 43.4 percent of respondents said it would be "difficult" for Japan to attain carbon neutrality by 2050 and 17.9 percent see it as "impossible."

Some 15.8 percent said the goal is achievable, according to the survey to which 11,479 companies responded.

The Japan Business Federation, the nation's powerful business lobby known as Keidanren, regards achieving carbon neutrality as a formidable challenge and is stressing the need to tackle it by promoting the use of hydrogen, electric cars and new innovations.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. has begun studying the possibility of transporting and distributing hydrogen produced and liquefied by using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power in Australia.

As part of such efforts, Kawasaki Heavy is working with Fortescue Metals Group in Australia and Iwatani Corp., a Japanese liquefied hydrogen supplier, to examine the business feasibility of the plan, with an eye to making a decision by 2025.

In recent years, Japan has been seeking to promote the use of hydrogen as an alternative energy source but building infrastructure remains a challenge.

"We will have to see how much demand will increase for hydrogen in the coming years," a Kawasaki Heavy official said.

For consumers, recycling PET bottles can be one way to do their part in protecting the environment.

Aeon Co. is planning to experiment with turning PET bottles collected at its supermarkets into new ones and using them for its "Topvalu" private brand.

The Japanese retailer has set a goal of using 100 percent recycled or plant-based PET bottles by 2030.

According to Aeon, some 11,982 tons of PET bottles were collected at its stores in fiscal 2019. If these were recycled and remade into new bottles, it would mean that Aeon could roughly cover all bottles manufactured annually under the private brand, a company official said.

The trial will first cover Tokyo and its neighboring prefectures.

"The momentum is building for decarbonization and we believe this is an opportunity," the official said.

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