Japan plans to adopt a long-term strategy on climate change that would commit the country to achieving net zero emissions “as early as possible in the second half of this century”.
The timetable was recommended by a panel advising the Japanese government on its long-term climate policy, but the proposals have already drawn criticism from environmental groups for their vagueness and lack of ambition.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has signaled he wants to play a leading role in tackling climate change, is set to host G-20 leaders for their next summit in Osaka in June. The government is working to finalize its policy for this event.
A 10-member panel led by Shinichi Kitaoka, the president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, presented its recommendations to Abe on April 2, paving the way for the government to “accelerate preparations”.
“Measures against global warming are no longer a cost for companies”, Abe said when receiving the proposals. “They are a source of competitiveness.
Abe noted that companies that actively address environmental damage “attract funding from around the world, enabling them to prepare for the next phase of their growth and take further action. This is just one example of the virtuous circle of environment and growth – these two concepts of environment and growth are not contradictory.
As part of the Paris Agreement process, Japan has already committed to reducing its emissions by 26% by 2030, compared to 2013 levels. In the longer term, the country aims to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050 (base year not specified). ).
The panel’s recommendations included working vigorously on the 80% target by 2050 and achieving a “decarbonized society” as early as possible in the second half of the century. This term refers to achieving a balance between anthropogenic emissions and the amount absorbed by sinks of greenhouse gases.
“Global action and disruptive innovation are key to tackling climate change,” said a summary of the panel’s recommendations provided to international media.
The panel was not prescriptive on how to achieve the goal, but emphasized the need for innovation. He cited examples of potentially disruptive innovations such as carbon capture and storage (CCS); carbon capture and utilization (CCU); next generation battery technology; the production, storage and use of hydrogen; space solar energy; next-generation geothermal energy; advanced nuclear energy; power of ocean currents; and advanced wind energy.
Incremental solutions would not be enough to meet the 80% emissions reduction target by 2050, hence the talk of disruptive innovation, Japanese Foreign Ministry official says at press briefing . He spoke to international media at the Foreign Press Center Japan on April 12 on condition of anonymity.
The panel called for the adoption of renewable energy as a major energy source and a reduction in emissions from coal-fired power plants. Even though several large fossil fuel projects have been canceled in recent years, new coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 15 gigawatts remain on the books – either as proposals or under construction – according to the Monitoring of Kiko Network’s coal-fired power plants in Japan. The Japanese government was warned by another panel last year that its continued promotion of coal power was creating a ‘bottleneck’ in international climate negotiations, as reported The diplomat at the time.
The Foreign Ministry official said that because the panel was looking at a long-term strategy, it didn’t discuss anything about those specific projects. He added that the panel looked at the energy transition as a whole, with an overall orientation of decarbonization:
ThatThis is the direction they pointed, they also pointed out that it is possible that CCS and CCU technologies will come into use. Thishas not yet been commercialized, but if it comes into play, many fossil fuel power plants will get a significant reduction.
Regarding the omission of a clear recommendation on implementing a carbon price to drive emissions reductions, the official said the panel noted that there were many viewpoints to consider. account but had not been able to reach consensus on this issue.
Asked if Japan has a process in place to review its 2030 target and consider raising the level of ambition, the official said, “We’re more concerned about the long-term strategy.”
Environmental activists see the long-term strategy as a key test of the government’s seriousness in tackling climate change and have called on Tokyo to increase its level of ambition.
The Kiko Network, a climate action group born out of Japan’s hosting of the climate conference that adopted the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, welcomed the focus on achieving a low-carbon society. However, he expressed concern that the recommendations reflected an insufficient level of ambition and concrete action.
In a report, Kiko Network Chairman Mie Asaoka said current plans to build coal-fired power plants across the country would “lock in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions in the long term.” It was also concerning that the recommendations did not call for an end to Japanese overseas aid for coal-fired power.
“If Japan’s long-term strategy does not include a major policy shift away from Japan’s promotion of coal power, it will be extremely inappropriate as a long-term strategy and will only be a show,” Asaoka said.
She also criticized the adoption of “several problematic technologies that are still far from practical” such as CCS, CCU, space solar power and next-generation nuclear power, saying it was “seriously Worrying that these technologies are being pushed around as if they could solve everything.This focus, Asaoka warned, could delay urgent action.
When a reporter asked the Foreign Office official if the plan was vague and empty, he dismissed the characterization. The official said the general direction was clear, without “dictating all future options until 2050”. He continued:
We don’t dictate the future option, every future option until 2050 … but I do notdo not think thatis empty at all. And they showed that there are many options and that all options must aim at decarbonization, and that is clear enough for us when formulating specific policies.
The panel also discussed plans to decarbonize manufacturing processes, including the steel industry’s goal to achieve “zero carbon steel” and a separate fulfillment policy “zero emissions from well to wheel” in the automotive sector. The panel endorsed efforts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as stated in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The government has launched an inter-agency consultation process on the recommendations and hopes to publish a report in late April or early May for public comment, the foreign ministry official said. The aim is for the government’s policy to be announced as G-20 environment and energy ministers gather for a meeting on “Energy Transitions and the Global Environment for Sustainable Growth” in the central Japanese city of Karuizawa in mid-June, ahead of the main G-20 summit later that month.
Abe hopes the policy will show Japan’s willingness to “take the lead in global efforts” to protect the environment for future generations – but it appears many details remain to be ironed out.