Hiroshima seeks to host headquarters of new international agency

by Uzaemonnaotsuka Tokai, Staff Writer

The City of Hiroshima plans to invite a new international agency, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which promotes the use of renewable energy such as solar power, to establish its headquarters in Hiroshima. The city is seeking to enhance its role as an international city of peace culture by attracting new industries. On March 9, Katsuhiro Kamei, the director general of the Energy and Global Warming Prevention Department, officially informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of the city’s intentions. The most likely site for the IRENA headquarters would be the land once occupied by the old Hiroshima University campus as another plan to redevelop that site has been canceled.

IRENA is the first international agency to promote the growth of renewable energy. It was founded at a conference held in Bonn, Germany in January. According to MOFA, Japan is considering, as it observes the U.S. reaction, whether it should become a full member of IRENA in order to help address the issues of global warming and the depletion of fossil fuels.

If the invitation is accepted, it would be the second successful invitation involving an international organization, following the invitation made to the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). It would also be the first headquarters of an international organization in Hiroshima.

The city submitted a request to MOFA, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries at the end of January, appealing for Japan’s full membership in IRENA and the establishment of the IRENA headquarters in Hiroshima.

On March 9, Mr. Kamei visited MOFA and MOE, and explained the strengths of its bid, including: 1) the significance of establishing the headquarters in Hiroshima, an A-bombed city known throughout the world, 2) the infrastructure of the city, including accommodation facilities, and 3) the experience of holding the G-8 Summit of Lower House Speakers in September 2008.

The city said its invitation to IRENA could create new industries in the environmental field and raise Hiroshima’s international profile as an environmentally-friendly city.

MOFA reported that three other cities--Vienna, Austria; Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates; and Bonn, Germany--have also expressed their desire to have IRENA establish its headquarters in their communities. But in Japan, Hiroshima is the only city that has declared its intention to invite IRENA.

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
Seventy-five countries, including France and Spain, signed the Statute of IRENA at its founding conference, led by Germany and held in Bonn on January 26, 2009. Japan did not officially join IRENA due to reservations that the functions of IRENA overlapped with those of the International Energy Agency (IEA). But Japan is now reconsidering the matter over concern it may fall behind this global trend. The government will make a decision whether to officially join IRENA as early as the beginning of April. In the second session of the Preparatory Commission, scheduled to be held in Egypt in June, the interim headquarters and the interim Director-General will be selected.

(Originally published in March 10, 2009)