New Japan PM Pledges to Match China's Zero Carbon 2050 Initiative

Clay Curtis
October 28, 2020

Suga said in a policy address to parliament: "Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth".

"We need to change our thinking to the view that taking assertive measures against climate change will lead to changes in industrial structure and the economy that will bring about growth".

To achieve his goals, Suga said that new solar cells and recycling of carbon would be key and that Japan would step up research and development in these areas as well as the digitization of society - a policy he has pursued since taking over Shinzo Abe Has.

The net zero move marks a sharp shift in the world's fifth largest emitter's ambitions from its existing goal of cutting emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and aligns it with the United Kingdom and the EU.

Japan joins the European Union, which previously said it aims to be carbon neutral in that same timeline.

Suga's pledge follows China announcing at the UN General Assembly last month its much-hailed target of becoming carbon-neutral by 2060. "He was emphasizing a fundamental shift, and that indicates how strongly he feels about the change that needs to be made".

Major carbon is the world's second largest economy, China.

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Furthermore, the leader explained his more immediate plans, such as integration of health insurance cards and My Number cards, formation of the new digital agency, inclusion of fertility treatment under insurance coverage, and making online medical treatment a permanent option. Renewable energy made up just 16 percent, while nuclear power, still recovering from the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima accident, made up just 3 percent.

"If Japan and the rest of the world are to avoid the catastrophic effects of the climate crisis, it is precisely this kind of action that the world needs", said Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan.

Under the medium- to long-term energy plan compiled in 2018, the government is aiming for renewables to account for 22 to 24 percent, fossil fuels, including coal and liquefied natural gas, for 56 percent, and nuclear power for 20 to 22 percent of the country's power generation in fiscal 2030.

Meanwhile, resource-poor Japan continues to see nuclear power as an effective means to achieve a society with reduced carbon dioxide emissions. "Carbon neutrality is no longer a lofty, faraway dream, but a necessary commitment", in line with worldwide climate change agreements, Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace global, said in a statement.

"We will work with the business world so a virtuous cycle with the economy can be created, he told a news conference held after Suga's speech".

"Power storage technology will serve as a key to resolving this", he added. The 2050 emissions-free target would require drastic changes and likely prompt calls for more nuclear plant restarts.

In response, Guterres was quoted as expressing his gratitude and saying he was encouraged by Japan's leadership.

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