Termed as the world’s 5th biggest CO2 emitter, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga headed Japan has pledged to become a carbon neutral nation by 2050, 10 years before its neighbor China that announced achieving the status before 2060. (Photo Credit: PM’s Office of Japan/Twitter)
- Japan has confirmed it will aim for a carbon neutral goal by 2050, and reach net zero GHG emissions
- Solar cells and carbon recycling are key to achieving the goal, the Japanese PM said and promised to encourage R&D in these domains
- Country will also bring in a ‘fundamental shift’ in its long standing policy towards use of coal, but nuclear energy it seems will stay
- Renewable Energy Institute wants the country to increase share of renewables in its current policy for 2030 to 45%
- Greenpeace Japan believes a target less than of 50% renewable electricity share by 2030 for Japan risks falling short of net zero by 2050
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Days after Nikkei Asia said Japan may be looking at adopting a net zero GHG emissions target for the country by 2050, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga promised such efforts in his 1st policy speech to the Japanese Parliament, Diet on October 26, 2020. He committed to Japan adopting a carbon neutral goal for 2050 and reach net zero GHG emissions by the target year (see Japan To Adopt Net Zero Emissions Target For 2050).
Previously, the government had set a target of reducing its emissions by 80% by 2050.
Though details of the target announced are still sketchy, according to various media reports Suga pushed for renewables in his speech. He confirmed new solar cells and carbon recycling will be key to achieve the goal with efforts to intensify research and development (R&D) in these domains, and promising deregulation along with green investment.
At the same time, he said there will be a ‘fundamental shift’ in Japan’s long standing policy towards use of coal without offering details, while also pushing forward its nuclear power policy.
Under its Basic Energy Plan currently in effect, renewables are to reach a 22% to 24% share of Japan’s total energy mix by 2030, while 56% is targeted to come from fossil fuels as coal and LNG, and nuclear energy to account for 20% to 22% of power generated.
According to Japan’s Renewable Energy Institute whose Founder and Chairperson is SoftBank boss Masayoshi Son, said this pledge from the federal government comes ‘undeniably late’ as the country should have already made this pledge in 2019 as part of its Long-term Strategy under the Paris Agreement.
What it needs to do now, suggests the institute, is to substantially strengthen its 2030 GHG emissions reduction target, raising it from the current 26% to 45% compared to 2013 levels. Simultaneously, it needs to raise the country’s 2030 renewable energy target to around 45% with a complete phase out of all coal power plants by 2030. Japan must decarbonize all energy use, not just electric but also heat and fuel by 2050, it adds.
“Whether we can truly laud the Japanese government’s 2050 carbon neutral declaration depends on whether it raises its 2030 reduction target significantly and launch the energy transition necessary for this,” emphasized the Renewable Energy Institute.
On the other hand, Greenpeace Japan welcomed Suga’s announcement and said it now needs to be backed by concrete action as this commitment must have a policy to match. It believes a commitment to net zero by 2050 means not building new domestic coal power plants and exporting coal technology and cancelled all currently planned coal plants. However, Greenpeace asks for even higher RE shares by 2030.
“If we are to achieve net zero by 2050, we must massively increase Japan’s renewable energy capacity, with a target of 50% renewable electricity by 2030,” stressed Greenpeace Japan’s Executive Director Sam Annesley. “Anything less than 50% and Japan risks falling short of net zero, and more importantly risks driving the world above 1.5 degrees as per the Paris Agreement.
Greenpeace Japan also pointed out that with Japan announcing a net zero emissions target, South Korea now remains the only nation in East Asia that’s yet to promise such a plan of action.
Recently, Japan’s neighbor China said it aims to become a carbon neutral economy before 2060 (see China Declares Carbon Neutrality Goal By 2060).