Suga says Japan to go carbon-free by 2050

Elias Hubbard
October 29, 2020

Takahama nuclear power plant in Japan.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Japan to net zero by 2050.

To applause from MPs, he added: "I declare we will aim to realise a decarbonised society".

Japan's previous goal was to reach this "80%" by 2050 and completely "as soon as possible" in the latter part of our century. This has been repeatedly criticized by climate activists as vague and unambitious. If Trump's opponent Joe Biden to win, he has promised to bring the country back under the Paris Climate Agreement.

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

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.

A more detailed outline of the government's path to carbon neutrality is expected before the end of the year.

Alluding to Japan's deep economic ties with its giant neighbor China, Suga said that a stable bilateral relationship was essential - but also that Japan would maintain contact with "all like-minded nations for a free and open Indo-Pacific".

He said that proactive measures and a change of mindset would be necessary to achieve the goal.

"The key is innovation", he said, citing examples including next-generation solar batteries. Japan's 140 coal-fired power plants provide almost a third of its total electricity generation, and coal is the second-biggest power generation method behind liquefied natural gas-fired plants, which provide 38% of the nation's needs. Following the meltdown in Fukushima, after which the nuclear reactors were shut down, the country has struggled to reduce its carbon emissions.

Still, many nuclear plants are offline following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by a massive quake and tsunami, as they now need to meet stricter safety regulations.

The country has regularly received criticism for continuing to build coal-fired plants at home, as well as financing projects to build them overseas, especially in Southeast Asia.

If all of Japan's coal-fired plants use ammonia for 20 percent of their fuel source, some 20 million tons would be needed annually, equivalent to the world's current trade volume per year, he said.

The carbon neutrality goal will likely mean a big shift in the country's energy plan, now under review.

Energy experts are now discussing revisions to Japan's basic energy plan for 2030 and 2050.

Japan has invested in recycling, energy conservation measures, and renewable resources, but since the collapse of the nuclear power industry, coal, oil, and natural gas have accounted for about 40 percent of the country's energy production.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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