This December marks five years since the signing of the Paris Agreement, which sets down international guidelines on the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Since then, various measures have been taken around the world, all with the aim of eventually achieving net-zero CO2 emissions. Through his business endeavors, Akifumi Takigawa of Mitsubishi Corporation (MC) is dedicated to helping us make the transition to carbon-free societies.
When I was appointed to MC's Low Carbon Task Force in October 2019, I could not have been happier, as it was an assignment that I had been hoping to get for some time. The task force has ten members, most of whom are quite young, and as we all come from different Business Groups, our work experience is fairly diverse. That diversity has sparked some unique ideas and at times, some rather heated discussions too. But we are working well as a team, and we share the same sense of urgency to create new businesses that can help to address a very serious global issue.
Things like steel and electricity are vital to our ways of life, but no matter how we create them, we also end up releasing CO2 into our atmosphere. Moves are underway to reduce carbon emissions by promoting greater development and use of renewable energy sources, however, little progress is being made in terms of figuring out how to reuse CO2. The key to tackling that challenge lies in effective CCUS* systems, and although that industry is still a fledgling one, it has been benefitting from a passionate and highly dedicated movement. Thus far, successes in CCUS systems have been small in scale, but we are starting to see more and more of them.
*Carbon capture, utilization and storage
The experience that compelled me to get involved in new business creation was a secondment to MC's Mozal's aluminum smelter in Mozambique. I was thrust into an unfamiliar environment, and being unaccustomed to the ways of my South African boss and the local employees, I often found myself struggling to make decisions. On one such occasion, my boss took me aside and said, "Akifumi, be significant." It was a simple message, but it meant that I should do work that makes me proud, and it was just the motivation I needed. By toiling away alongside the local workers, more than 95% of whom were from Mozambique, I managed to build up a good deal of trust with them. That exposure, and the fact that I was right there on the front lines, enabled me to make proposals to management about how to improve operations, and before long I was put in charge of Mozal's IT strategies. My two and a half years in Mozambique provided me with a valuable lesson on how to create something from nothing, and to this day they remain the source of my inspiration.
One of MC's Three Corporate Principles is Shoki Hoko, or "Corporate Responsibility to Society." We are working hard to help realize carbon-free societies, and I would like those efforts to play a meaningful role in solving environmental problems. For now, I will brace myself to take on the challenges ahead through new adaptations of ideas and lessons learned from my predecessors.
Our task force is examining ways of using CO2 to make things like concrete and chemicals, while at the same time considering how those raw materials can be applied to make clothing and other everyday products. I am hopeful that by being more environmentally conscious in our day-to-day lives, we can create a swell that has enough momentum to make carbon-free societies a very real possibility. That will remain the aim of our task force, as it works to commercialize CCUS opportunities.