The third-biggest economy but also the fifth largest carbon emitter in the world, Japan wants to be carbon neutral and is planning to become a decarbonized society. The country’s new Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, has made an ambitious statement that declares his intentions of working to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Japan has long been criticized by Greenpeace for its lack of action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and the continuous use of nuclear power generation. According to Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, a sustainable future does not include nuclear power stations.
Japan’s prime minister pledges to take aggressive measures to achieve carbon neutrality
Yoshihide Suga included carbon neutrality as a topic in his first policy speech to the Diet. On October 26th, Japan’s Prime Minister pledged to eliminate greenhouse gases in the next 30 years and took his predecessor’s actions on climate change to the next level. Abe Shinzo, the former Japan’s Prime Minister, failed to take concrete actions to fight against carbon emissions even though previous commitments stated an 80% cutting on greenhouse emissions.
According to Suga, the country needs to adopt aggressive measures to combat gas emissions and climate change. Japan is currently trying to reduce its fossil fuel reliance, especially since the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The Prime Minister stated the country needs to understand that becoming carbon neutral will be not only the rational next step to take considering the danger of climate change but also “a big source of growth” that will eventually lead to the transformation of Japan’s economic society.
This statement was delivered in a context that finds Japan reliant mostly on fossil fuels as a primary energy supply. In 2017, Japan’s energy was 87% derived from fossil fuels and it seems the country continues to build coal-fired power stations that will heavily contribute to carbon emissions. Moreover, the Prime Minister was not very specific about the measures he is planning to take to achieve his ambitious goal except for the mentioning of “next-generation solar panels” and “carbon recycling”.
Japan to join other countries in the fight against greenhouse emissions
With his statement, Yoshihide Suga has joined the UK and EU countries in their pledge to become carbon neutral by 2050. The European Union stated that intends to become the first carbon-neutral continent in the world while the UK declared back in 2019 that intends to invest $1 trillion in the next 10 years to reach its goal of carbon neutrality.
China vowed to eliminate carbon emissions by 2060. China emits 28% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions and to achieve its goal in the next 40 years it should reduce its emissions by no less than 90%. If China manages to achieve this goal, the global warming projections might need to be adjusted with a cut of 0.3 degree. Even though it does not seem like a significant decrease, this can make a major difference for the well-being of the planet.
In 2018, Japan emitted 1.36 billion US tons of greenhouse, 3.9% less than in 2017, and 12% down from 2013. However, in order to meet its deadline, Japan needs to make major changes in its energy policy. For a 2050-carbon neutral Japan, Greenpeace stated the government needs to produce at least half of its energy from renewable sources in the next ten years and cease any plans to build new coal plants. Moreover, its nuclear reactors should no longer be an option and the idea of imported hydrogen extracted from fossil fuels in Australia or Saudi Arabia should be abandoned.