Tokyo report | Environment | East Asia
Without specific decarbonization measures, Japan’s commitment to a post-COVID green recovery remains uncertain under the Suga administration.
When Suga Yoshihide won the Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) leadership race to become Prime Minister in mid-September, he pledged to push forward the sustainable growth âAbenomicsâ reforms of his predecessor Abe Shinzo for promote economic recovery and contain the spread of COVID-19. Suga added that his administration would pursue a carbon-free society, environmental measures and a stable energy supply in a post-coronavirus era. But he did not describe specific climate change countermeasures, raising fears that Suga also inherited the previous Abe administration’s lackluster vision for decarbonization and domestic energy reforms.
Global greenhouse gas emissions are expected to decline by 4% to 7% in 2020. But emissions tend to rise and return to normal after an economic downturn, which has drawn attention to the need for greater momentum and global coordination to reduce emissions in line with economic conditions. recovery efforts. The European Union has taken the initiative by proposing a border carbon adjustment tax on imports from countries without strict environmental regulations. Meanwhile, Germany, France and the UK have also pledged various carbon dioxide reduction and energy saving initiatives to create local jobs and boost economic growth.
At a time when advanced countries should set the example of decarbonization to other countries, Japan, as the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has shown little initiative in raising targets for reducing carbon emissions. emissions. In March, the United Nations called on each country to raise its national greenhouse gas emissions targets, but Japan chose to keep its energy production targets at 26% for coal, at 22 to 24. % for renewable energies and 20 to 22% for nuclear energy with a reduction of emissions of 26% from 2013 levels by 2030.
Minister Kajiyama Hiroshi of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) stressed the importance of coal as a long-term basic energy supply for the nation. The government’s approach to decarbonization has focused on upgrading to state-of-the-art coal-fired power plants, phasing out heavy and obsolete CO2-emitting power plants, and abandoning exports coal-fired power plants that emit high levels of CO2. At a press conference on September 16, Kajiyama stressed, “We will promote decarbonization but cannot ignore the reality that we have no choice but to choose coal-fired electricity,” alluding to Japan’s dependence on energy imports.
In Japan, the proportion of renewable energy produced increased in the first half of the year, mainly due to lower overall energy demand. This has led to calls for the government to reassess the potential of renewables and set higher renewable energy targets. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energy accounted for 23.1% of Japan’s total energy production, up from 18.6% in 2019. Japan is now close to the target of 24 % of the government in terms of renewable energies.
In Japan, 90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy sector. Significant changes cannot take place without the integration of economic and environmental policies. Under the previous Abe administration, the Ministry of the Environment and METI clashed over export policies for coal-fired power plants. The energy policy being under the jurisdiction of the METI, the environmental policy was limited by the vested interests of the METI.
But inter-ministerial environmental conflicts could be a thing of the past under the Suga administration. On his first day as prime minister, Suga said he was determined to eliminate bureaucratic sectionalism to create a cabinet that works for the people, acknowledging the past ministerial stalemate. Although METI Minister Kajiyama and Environment Minister Koizumi Shinjiro retained their posts as part of the cabinet reshuffle, the balance of power once held by METI under the previous Abe administration appears to have weakened under Suga. This could pave the way for a transformation of Japan’s national energy policy.
The Paris Agreement aims to keep the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, with the aim of keeping the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But based on the current trajectory, the temperature increase at the end of this century is expected to reach 3 degrees Celsius.
The next triennial review of the government’s core energy policy will begin in the summer of 2021, allowing the Suga administration to break with the Abe administration’s environmental backlog and help decarbonize the world.