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27th Nov 2021

EU welcomes Japan's 2050 climate-neutrality pledge

  • Japan's new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, declared on Monday that 'Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth' (Photo: MIKI Yoshihito)

EU leaders welcomed on Monday (26 October) the new Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga's pledge to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 - a move that puts Tokyo's plans on the same timeline as Europe and a decade ahead of China.

"I warmly welcome Japan to the goal that all developed nations should set for themselves to stop climate change," said EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Twitter.

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"Japan is a good friend and ally and we look forward to working with them towards net zero emissions in 2050. The world is coming together for the climate," she added.

Refering to Japan's climate policy U-turn, commission vice-president Frans Timmermans thanked the country for showing "global leadership" under the Paris Agreement.

Suga's announcment follows Chinese president Xi Jinping's pledge last month to reach peak emissions before 2030 and become carbon-neutral by 2060. But it also comes after South Korea's 'climate emergency' resolution to ramp up the country's climate efforts.

In his speech, the 71-year-old - who last month replaced Shinzo Abe as Japanese prime minister - said that his administration seeks to make "a virtuous cycle" between the economy and the environment.

"Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth," Suga said in a speech on Monday.

"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 great growth," he added.

Prime minister Suga also said nuclear power would remain part of Japan's the energy mix in the transition towards net-zero emissions goal.

Critics had called on the new head of state to seize the opportunity to change Japan's energy mix, particularly after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

While Japan's roadmap to reach the new 2050 target is still largely unclear, Suga said that innovation would be key to achieve the country's long-term climate goal - citing hydrogen and battery storage as examples.

Under the Paris Agreement, Japan committed to cut 18-percent of its greenhouse gas emission by 2030 (against a 1990 baseline).

In Japan's current energy targets for 2030, renewables account for about a quarter of total power generation in the country - alongside a maximum 22-percent share for nuclear, a 26-percent share for coal and 27 percent for gas.

However, according to environmental NGO Greenpeace, anything less than 50 percent share for renewable electricity in Japan risks falling short of net-zero.

While the previous economic recession resulted in steady emission declines from 2008 to 2011, they then grew drastically after the catastrophe at Fukushima.

Now Japan is the world's fifth-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, according to data from 2018 from the International Energy Agency.

Ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Paris deal (12 December), when all signatories are expected to increase its climate ambition, Japan announced that it will revise its 2030 energy mix and emissions mitigation target.

According to an analysis published by US consultancy firm McKinsey on Japan's Paris Agreement targets, "the most likely path to decarbonisation across power, transport, and buildings comprises two main achievements: near-full electrification and a significant build-out of renewable electricity generation".

Ministers back EU-wide 2050 climate goal, not by country

EU environment ministers reached on Friday a partial agreement on the bloc's climate law, pending a decision by EU leaders on the updated 2030 target. While none of the 27 EU countries rejected the bill, Bulgaria decided to abstain.

Analysis

China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US

China's pledge to become carbon neutral before 2060 is "good news" for Europe, but it sends a clear message to Washington ahead of the US election - in which climate change has become a significant aspect for voters.

EU climate law: MEPs want EU to be more ambitious

Members of the European Parliament's environment committee on Thursday will vote on a crucial report about the new EU climate law. Lead rapporteur MEP Jytte Guteland expects that most MEPs will support at least 60-percent target for 2030.

Kerry resets climate relations before Glasgow summit

John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy, was in Brussels to discuss how to tackle climate change with the European Commission. His appearance also marked a major shift in relations after the previous US administration under Donald Trump.

Commission: Pioneering Nordics' energy mix 'example' to EU

The Nordic electricity market is an example of successful market integration plus climate action, as the share of sustainable energy keeps growing, the European Commission said. However, the decarbonisation of the transport sector remains a challenge.

Investigation

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The treaty enables companies to claim billions in compensation from states in front of international arbitration tribunals, if they feel unfairly treated by the states' energy or climate policies.

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