Japan’s new -46% emissions target not enough to avert climate crisis:

Japan needs more ambitious targets and policies to achieve 1.5°C Paris Agreement target

April 22, 2021 (Thursday)

Climate Action Network Japan (CAN-Japan)

Prior to the Leaders’ Summit on Climate, organized by U.S. president Joe Biden, prime minister Yoshihide Suga today announced Japan’s new target of a 46% cut by fiscal 2030 in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2013, and to “strive toward the higher goal of 50%.” Despite the intensifying global climate crisis, the government of Japan had failed to change its very inadequate target of a 26% reduction (compared to 2013) for more than five years since the target was adopted in 2015. During that time, CAN-Japan has repeatedly urged the government to adopt a more ambitious target. Japan remained a laggard while one country after another declared more ambitious emission reduction targets for 2030, but at last Japan has made a step forward by raising its target.

Nevertheless, the new target is still short of the level needed to achieve the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement and avert a climate crisis. According to the scientific advice of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global CO2 emissions must be cut in half by 2030 compared to 2010 if we are to keep warming below 1.5°C. This means that developed countries, including Japan (which ranks fifth in global emissions), should make even deeper emissions cuts. An analysis by the international scientist group Climate Action Tracker found out that to limit global warming to 1.5°C, Japan for its share would need to cut its emissions by at least 60% by 2030 compared to 2013. Suga said Japan would “strive for 50%,” but an even bigger emissions cut is actually needed.

Going forward, we can expect to see some debate about Japan’s national energy and climate policies toward 2030 based on the new target announced by Suga. In those discussions, Japan needs to aim for significantly deeper emission cuts in order to be consistent with a path to achieve the 1.5°C target, and this needs to be incorporated into its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). It is not enough just to declare targets. It is also important to significantly bolster domestic policies and measures. In the process, Japan must improve energy efficiency, deploy more renewable energy, and introduce effective carbon pricing, and in the process, it must not forget to prioritize policy directions to exit from nuclear power due to its high risk, and to exit from coal-fired power generation due to its high emissions.  It is unacceptable to pin hopes on new and unproven technologies as an excuse to postpone other measures that can already be implemented today with existing technologies. There are no assurances that the innovative technologies will be ready in time to meet the 1.5°C target, and there are concerns about their environmental and societal impacts. Japan urgently needs to look at how to move ahead with a just transition to 100% sustainable and renewable energy. In these discussions, from the perspective of democracy and climate justice, rather than the vested interests of the fossil fuel industry, it is important to ensure the participation of civil society, which is calling for solutions to the climate crisis.

Until today the Japanese government’s very low priority on climate policy countermeasures has delayed many responses to this challenge. Other major international climate meetings are planned this year besides the Biden climate summit, including the G7 Summit in June and the COP26 Glasgow Climate Conference in November. Japan must deal with climate change as a top priority if it hopes to show its commitment to rapid decarbonization domestically, and also, its contributions to climate finance as a major economy in the world.