Japan revised its 2020 pledge on 15 November 2013 and now aims to reduce emissions by 3.8% below fiscal year 2005 levels by 2020. The new 2020 pledge is equivalent to an increase of 5.2% above 1990 levels and could even be at 10.5% above 1990 if Japan makes use of forest sinks and overseas credits. This represents a serious decrease in ambition from the original Copenhagen pledge of 25% below 1990.
If it follows through on its renewable policy, Japan is on track to meet this new pledge without having to use forest sinks and overseas credits, and despite the fact it has stopped the operation of the vast majority of its nuclear power plants. While a weaker implementation of renewables policy would lead to an emissions level that is 22 MtCO2e higher than the revised 2020 target, a stronger implementation of renewables could lead to an emissions level that is 67 MtCO2e or 5.2% lower than the target level.
In November 2013, Japan announced a new pledge to reduce emissions by 3.8% below fiscal year 2005 levels by 2020. This pledge will result in an emissions level of 1,299 MtCO2e in 2020, which is equivalent to 5.2% above 1990 levels (MOE 2013).
We estimate that LULUCF accounting leads to a small credit of 44 MtCO2e in 2020. If these credits are applied additionally, the revised pledge will lead to an emissions level of 1,343 MtCO2e in 2020. In addition, the use of overseas credits can further increase the emission level by 20 MtCO2e to 1363 MtCO2e in 2020, or 10.5 % above 1990 levels. This pledge has not yet been enshrined in domestic legislation (Kuramochi 2104a).
Prior to the economic downturn in 2009, Japan’s emissions had been fairly steady (1,300 – 1,370 MtCO2e) since the mid-1990s. However, the economic downturn, along with the Fukushima catastrophe, caused much greater fluctuations in emissions over the last five years.
For their original Copenhagen pledge, Japan communicated a target of a 25% emissions reduction in 2020 below 1990 levels. This target was conditional on the establishment of a fair and effective international framework, in which all major economies participate, and on agreement by those economies on ambitious targets.
Revision of the original pledge raises the 2020 target by 356 MtCO2e, and increases the 2020 Emissions Gap (UNEP, 2013) by 3-4%. While the Japanese government claims that this revision is mainly due to the future exclusion of nuclear energy from the energy mix (MOE 2013), our analysis indicates that the revision cannot be fully explained by removing nuclear energy from the energy mix. Instead, it represents a decreased level of ambition (see below and CAT briefing on Japan 2013).
Japan's Kyoto target (2008-2012) was at -6% relative to base year (1990) emission levels.
We rate Japan’s 2020 pledge inadequate as the emission level is higher than any effort sharing category suggests. We would rate Japan’s former target of 25% reduction below 1990 “medium”. This is slightly stricter than the rating in previous years, as the assessment now includes approaches which allow negative emission allowances. For Japan, the categories equal cumulative per capita emissions and responsibility/capability/needs, and in later years also the approaches which focus on capability alone suggest negative emissions allowances.
Currently implemented policies will lead to emissions levels of between 1,232 and 1,321 MtCO2e in 2020 and 1,120 and 1,263 MtCO2e in 2030, excluding LULUCF. The range for each year depends on the success of the implementation of Japan’s renewable strategy. The lower end of the range assumes that Japan will meet its renewable energy targets for electricity generation, as put forward in the 2010 Basic Act on Energy policy. The upper end represents a situation where the currently implemented feed-in tariff will exceed this target. This can be achieved by implementing all currently approved RE capacity until 2020 and by continuing RE growth at a similar rate thereafter.
After the 2011 earthquake, the Japanese government decided to revise its energy policy and committed to reducing its reliance on nuclear energy. In 2013 the government laid out an Innovative Strategy on Energy and Environment that included the goal to phase out nuclear energy.
In 2011, nuclear power plants have stopped operating until they will be able to comply with higher safety standards. (In 2014, the Government announced the new Basic Energy Plan of 2014 (METI 2014) that calls for a reintroduction of nuclear energy. As of August 2014, 19 nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 19 GW have applied for a restart under new more stringent safety standards. These would avert approximately 90 MtCO2 of emissions from coal-fired power plants (Kuramochi 2014b). A little less than the same amount of nuclear energy capacity will then still remain shut down. As of November 2014 only one plant, at Sendai, has been given the go-ahead to open, but has not yet opened.
An important aim of the Basic Energy Plan of 2014 is to diversify the energy mix away from nuclear towards renewable energy. However, the plan does not specify how the Japanese government intends to achieve this. The 2010 Basic Energy plan established renewable targets for electricity generation of: 12.5% in 2020 and 20% in 2030. In 2012, Renewable Energy Act was introduced to support these targets. It institutes a feed-in tariff (FIT) and general funding for distribution networks. As of March 2014 roughly 69 GW (97% of which is PV) have been approved for the FIT. However only 9GW of renewables began operating as of March 2014.
Before the recently initiated transformation of the electricity supply sector, Japan had already introduced effective policies in the area of energy efficiency in transport, industry and buildings. These policies were recently complemented by additional policies in the building sector (Top runner standard for building materials) and a Global Warming Tax. The latter is a low upstream environmental tax at a maximum price of 2.89 US/tCO2 in 2016 and will likely have only have marginal effects on GHG emissions. Furthermore, the GHG impact of these complex recently introduced policies is difficult to quantify, and has not been quantified by other institution yet (Kuramochi 2014a). We have not attempted to quantify these policies for this update yet either.
Targets for 2020 were calculated from fiscal year 2005 according to Japan’s Fifth National Communication to the UNFCCC (2010). We calculated Japan's LULUCF accounting quantities in 2020 for afforestation, reforestation and deforestation using the current Kyoto rules. For forest management, Japan's proposed reference level is zero. We also apply a cap on forest management (either 3% of the base year emissions or 15% of the activity whichever is less), since Japan wants to continue using the Kyoto Protocol rules for forest management.
Current policy projections
For the analysis of current policy projections we used the WEO 2013 Current Policy scenario (IEA 2013) which covers energy efficiency policies and their impact on CO2 emissions. These datasets were combined with non-energy data from US EPA (US EPA 2012) and Edgar (JRC/PBL 2012). The WEO did not cover the shutdown of nuclear energy plants nor the increase of RE capacity triggered by the FIT. Therefore we additionally quantified the development of renewable energy in electricity generation and the likely development of nuclear capacity.
For renewable energy development, we implemented two scenarios, representing the range of possible future development of RE installation. For the higher emissions case we assumed that the RE targets for electricity generation of 12.5% and 20% for 2020 respectively 2030 will be implemented. For the lower emissions scenario we assumed that the currently under the feed-in tariff approved renewable energy capacity will be implemented by 2020 and that a similar growth will be sustained until 2030. For nuclear energy we assumed for both scenarios a restart of the 19 nuclear power plants that applied, assuming that these reactors will be gradually phased out over time, as plants turn older than 40 years.
Climate Action Tracker Policy Brief (November, 2013). Japan: From frontrunner to laggard.
CRF (2013). UNFCCC AWG-KP Submissions 2013. Common Reporting Format.
Government of Japan (2010a). Japan's pledge to the Copenhagen Accord. Compiled in: Compilation of economy-wide emission reduction targets to be implemented by Parties included in Annex I to the Convention, UNFCCC (2011).
Government of Japan (2010b). Japan’s Fifth National Communication.
Government of Japan (2009). Japan's view on the Annex of the conclusion of the AWG-KP7: Options and proposals on how to address definitions, modalities, rules and guidelines for the treatment of land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF), 27 April 2009, FCCC/KP/AWG/2009/MISC.11
IEA (2013). World Energy Outlook 2013, International Energy Agency. Paris.
JRC/PBL (2012) EDGAR version 4.2 FT2010. Joint Research Centre of the European Commission/PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.
Kuramochi, T. (2014a). GHG MITIGATION IN JAPAN : AN OVERVIEW OF THE CURRENT POLICY LANDSCAPE. World Resources Institute (WRI), Washington D.C.
Kuramochi, T. (2014b). Personal communication.
Ministry of Energy, Trade and Industry (METI) (2010). The Strategic Energy Plan of Japan: Meeting Global Challenges and Securing Energy Futures. Summary, revised June 2010, METI, Tokyo
Ministry of Energy, Trade and Industry (METI) (2014). 2014 Basic Energy Plan. Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, METI, Tokyo
Ministry of Environment, Japan (MOE) (2013). Warsaw Climate Change Conference, November 2013. http://www.env.go.jp/en/earth/cc/cop19_summary.html (21 November, 2014).
USEPA (2012). Global Mitigation of Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases, Washington, D.C., USA.