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Press Conference by Minister Saito (Excerpt)

*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.

1:14-1:28 p.m.
Tuesday, January 16, 2024
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building


Opening Remarks

Response to the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake

To begin, I would like to mention one point. After the cabinet meeting, I attended a meeting of the Emergency Headquarters for the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake at the Prime Minister’s Office and reported on the most up-to-date status of damage and response. In addition, earlier, the emergency headquarters within the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry also held a meeting.

Yesterday marked the passage of two weeks from the occurrence of the disaster. More than 220 people have died, and there are still missing people. Once again, I would like to offer my condolences on the loss of the deceased and express my heartfelt sympathy for all people affected by the disaster.

Regarding the status of damage, first, around 8,100 households remain cut off from electric power. Power has been supplied to most large shelter facilities except for those that are located in areas with difficult access. Regarding other shelter facilities, we are also advancing restoration work and securing substitute power supply using power source vehicles while listening to the local governments’ requests and checking the status of secondary evacuation.

In preparation for future snowfalls, we will make every possible effort, including increasing fuel delivery by small tanker trucks, to secure fuel for power source vehicles while developing a system of collaboration with relevant parties.

With respect to fuel, out of the 69 service stations in the six cities and towns in northern Noto, 53 are in operation. In anticipation of snow, we are already making advance deliveries of heating oil and diesel oil for use at shelter facilities. Moreover, we are developing a system to secure necessary fuel in cooperation with the local communities so that extended periods of snowfall can be dealt with.

As for the supply of goods to shelter facilities in the disaster-affected areas, we are continuing to increase the supply of cold weather protection goods—for example, 7,500 pieces of cold weather clothing have been delivered. In addition to guarding against cold weather, we have supplied 2,600 additional cardboard beds to improve the quality of life at shelter facilities.

We have also delivered 100,000 sets of spoons and paper cups and 200,000 pairs of undergarments, as the need for daily necessities is growing due to the prolonged stay at shelter facilities. We would like to meet requests for goods like those and also carefully cater to the need for secondary shelter facilities.

As for temporary toilet facilities, 770 facilities, including those installed by the government, have been installed in Wajima, Suzu and Nanao Cities, and Uchinada Town, among other places, and an additional 60 or more facilities are scheduled to be delivered. To further increase the convenience of temporary toilet facilities, we are also promoting the supply of relevant goods, including lanterns and attachments for changing Japanese-style toilets to Western-style ones.

As for support for the livelihoods of people affected by the disaster, we will promptly conduct a study on the support package that Prime Minister Kishida has instructed us to work out in consideration of requests from the disaster-affected local governments. At the same time, we will strive to identify the current situation of small and medium-size enterprises and supply chains and make sure to take necessary actions.

Through those activities, METI will care for the people affected by the disaster and continue to do its utmost to respond to the disaster.

Question-and-Answer Session

GX League

Q: I would like to ask you about the GX League. Today, the dashboard of companies’ emission reduction targets was published. The total sum of companies’ emission reduction targets do not meet the reduction target of 46% by FY2030 compared with FY2013 under the NDC. I would like you to comment on that and tell me how you intend to achieve the NDC in the future. In addition, as there are conspicuous differences in the participation rates across industries, please tell me how you will broaden participation in the future.

A: The GX League is a voluntary framework for conducting emission trading. Today, we published the dashboard as a platform for disclosing participating companies’ emission reduction targets, as this will lead to an improvement in the evaluation of companies making active reduction efforts.
According to the dashboard published at this time, the total sum of the participating countries’ emission reduction targets by FY2030 comes to a reduction of around 40% compared with FY2013, lower than the national emission reduction target of 46% by FY2030.
On the other hand, the participating companies are comprised mainly of manufacturing and energy companies, while participation is insufficient in some transportation-related industries. In order to achieve the reduction target of 46% by FY2030, I believe it is important to promote reduction efforts while using not only emissions trading but also various policy measures, such as 20 trillion yen’s worth of support for advance investments using GX Economy Transition Bonds.
In addition, when providing support for advance investments using GX Economy Transition Bonds, we would like to further raise the participation rates across all industries by encouraging individual companies to join the initiative—for example, calling on large emitters to participate in the GX League—in addition to implementing incentive measures to promote participation.
Furthermore, we will conduct a study on ways of promoting participation and target-setting so that we can make the emissions trading system fairer and more effective when the system launches in earnest from FY2026.

Sanctions against Russia

Q: I would like to ask you about the sanctions imposed against Russia in relation to the Ukraine conflict.
Sputnik, a Russian media organization, carried a scoop article dated January 11 revealing that the United States purchased Russian crude oil in October and November. In addition, the January 11th edition of the Pravda newspaper reported that in October and November, the United States purchased Russian crude oil at prices ranging from 74 dollars to 76 dollars, higher than the upper limit of 60 dollars per barrel under the sanctions. In addition, Global Witness pointed out in an article dated November 16, 2023, that the United States continued to purchase petroleum products from Russian crude oil refined in third countries.
The United States has led the sanctions, called on the allied countries to join its initiative, introduced the import ban on Russian crude oil, and set the upper limit on the prices of Russian crude oil. If those reports are factual, doesn’t that mean the United States is engaging in an act of betrayal against the allied countries, including Japan and Europe? First, please tell me whether the United States has given any notice or provided any information to Japan about the purchase of Russian oil.
Also, European countries and the United States have halted assistance measures to Ukraine one after another on the assumption that there is no chance of victory for Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia’s real GDP growth rate in 2023 rose to 2.2%. Are you considering asking the G7 to remove the sanctions against Russia, which have been potentially very harmful and certainly not beneficial for Japan’s energy security? Even if the G7 cannot come up with an agreement, I believe that Japan should go it alone in importing Russian crude oil for risk-hedging purposes and for the sake of energy security and its national interests if the reported U.S. purchase of Russian crude oil has been confirmed as factual, because there are concerns over imports of oil from the Middle East, where the war is spreading. Please share your opinion.

A: Of course, I am aware of the various media reports mentioned in your question. However, I believe that we should refrain from commenting on specific facts related to the situation of the United States’ imports, so this question should be directed to the United States.
That said, as you know, the price cap system agreed upon by the G7 in September 2022 allows imports of Russian oil if the price is lower than the prescribed upper limit in order to avoid disruptions in international energy markets and ease upward pressures on energy prices while reducing Russia’s oil revenue. Our understanding is that the United States is conforming with the price cap system.
Regarding the sanctions against Russian crude oil, Japan’s stance is to make comprehensive decisions and act appropriately in order to avoid undermining its energy security while cooperating with the G7, so I appreciate your understanding.

Last updated:2024-01-16