The focus of his meetings was the region’s appetite for investment in hydrogen, ammonia and critical minerals. But he said the state’s big LNG investments would still play a crucial role in meeting the energy needs of Japan, South Korea and China for years to come, even as the state moves to legislate interim emission reduction targets.
“It [transition to green energy] can’t happen overnight. I’m a strong believer the world has to act on climate but when you see a city of 40 million people like this one, Tokyo, or Shanghai or Beijing, you absolutely know it is a process that is going to take some time,” Mr. McGowan said.
“It is not like you can flick a switch. The transition fuel, which is gas, can help with that, but we have to work jointly on new energy opportunities for these countries.
“Every one of these major trading houses are focused on how to get renewable energy into Japan and start the transition. They are also focused by their nervousness now of energy supply from other countries. They are seriously focused, in light of Russia’s behavior in particular.”
Reliable iron ore trading partner
Resource-poor Japan hopes to achieve a zero emissions target of 2050 by investing heavily in green energy projects in Australia and other countries. WA has allocated industrial land in the state’s north for hydrogen-related projects to companies, including South Korean steel maker Posco, with whom Mr. McGowan will meet next week.
On his first visit to the region since the start of the pandemic, the premier pitched the state’s size and climate, energy policies and history as a reliable iron ore trading partner to Japan and South Korea as key reasons to invest there. He arrived in Japan on Sunday and will travel to South Korea later this week.
Mr McGowan also confirmed he planned to visit China later this year and welcomed improved diplomatic relations between Beijing and Canberra, which he expected would reopen exports of WA crayfish, wheat and wine in the coming months.
“Japan is our second-largest trading partner and has been a significant trading partner since the 1960s. Much of the Western Australian industry is built on Japanese customers and investors. China, of course, is also a major customer of ours. It is not like you have to pick one or the other. We have good relations with both,” he said.
Mr McGowan said he was unapologetic for trying to maintain friendly relations with China at a time when bilateral ties hit an all-time low during the pandemic and Beijing slapped sanctions on $20 billion worth of Australian goods. Iron ore, Australia’s top export which is dominated by the state’s Pilbara region, was unaffected by the trade restrictions.
“Obviously, they [China] have their internal processes which are a mystery to us, but I would expect that thaw in relations is ongoing and the improvement on the commonwealth level is welcome. That is a process that, I think, will bear fruit later this year,” he said.
“While they don’t share the same political system as us, the reality is they are a long-standing government that will continue in place that we should have good relations with as they are the major power in the region and our biggest customer by a long way.”
McGowan hopes to leverage off WA’s existing relationships selling iron ore and other resources to Japan and South Korea to tap into green energy opportunities. Japan’s Prime Minister, Mr. Fumio Kishida, visited Perth in October.
He met with Japan’s Trade Minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura, and deputy chief cabinet secretary Hitohiko Isozaki. “They exchanged views, focusing on the promotion of resource and energy-related sectors and people-to-people exchanges, and agreed that Japan and Western Australia would continue to work closely together,” Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.