October 26, 2020 — In Prime Minister Suga’s first policy speech to parliament after taking office, he announced Japan’s aim to become carbon neutral by 2050. 350.org commends Japan on their intention to align with the Paris Agreement goals, but cautions that these goals must be met through robust climate action, ambitious planning and concrete execution including:
Revising Japan’s Nationally Determined Contributions
While most countries submitted more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), or post-2020 climate actions, as part of the Paris Agreement, the Japan government resubmitted their NDC to the United Nations in March without revision from 2015 — drawing international criticism. As the world’s fifth-largest carbon emitter, and given their historical responsibility of greenhouse gas emissions, Japan must competently revise their NDC to meet their climate goals.
Total Abolition of Coal-Fired Power Generation
Japan must also abolish plans to build any coal-fired power plants, one of the largest contributors to global carbon emissions. Asia is the only continent in which coal-fired power plants have been increasing, and much of it is funded by Japanese banks. To make the 2050 goal a reality, Prime Minister Suga’s pledge to “radically change our policy on coal-fired power generation” must be accompanied by concrete policy shifts to phase out investments in coal-fired power plants in Japan and overseas.
Plans must be Based on Current, Best Technologies, not Unproven ones
The “innovative technologies such as carbon recycling” that Prime Minister Suga mentioned, such as carbon dioxide capture, utilization, and storage technology (CCUS) are future, uncertain technologies. The plan now is phrased in such a way that if these technologies are not realised, the goals will not be achieved — at a point of no return for the climate. In addition, nuclear power plants in Japan have been proven to have waste or safety issues. For these goals to be met, action plans must take into consideration the current, and not future technologies, or be for naught.
Supporting Green Investments through a Just Recovery from COVID-19
Japan must actively invest in energy-saving and renewable energy, which are increasingly available and affordable worldwide. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, any economic stimulus should be directed towards a healthier, new normal and not one that props up the fossil fuel industry — including providing subsidies for businesses to make green investments with fewer risks. To do so, Japan’s upcoming Strategic Energy Plan should incorporate a policy that increases the ratio of renewable energy in 2030 from the current target between 22% and 24% to a much higher ratio.
“Backcasting” the Strategic Energy Plan to Meet Goals
Discussions revising Japan’s Strategic Energy Plan have commenced. As the climate crisis becomes more urgent, policymakers must “backcast” climate strategies by creating action plans based on the current goals and working backwards. The next Strategic Energy Plan must be fully aligned with this pledge, and emissions reduction targets along with their action plans must be fully consistent with the Paris Agreement.
The world is now advancing toward a carbon-free society, and urgent climate action in divesting from fossil fuels is essential if Japan wants to, in Prime Minister Suga’s words, “lead the global environmental field”.