Japan is currently in the process of preparing its 2030 targets for its INDC. Newspaper articles report that Japan will likely put forward an emissions reduction target of 20% below 2013 emission levels by 2030, equivalent to 11% below 1990 levels by 2030. Application of Japan’s approach to forest management would likely reduce this level of ambition further to around 8% below 1990 levels.
If the Japanese government were to announce this target, it would rate as “inadequate”: if all countries adopted this level of ambition warming would likely exceed 3–4oC in the 21st century. With the policies it already has in place Japan can reach this target without taking any further action.
In addition, the energy strategy that will likely be developed in conjunction with the target is not in line with what is needed to transform Japan’s energy sector to a low carbon economy. Indeed, the contrary is the case, as coal-fired power plants are set to play an increasingly important role. The share of low carbon options in the energy supply sector will increase only slightly from 37.5% before the Fukushima crisis (2009; IEA 2013) to approximately 43–45% in 2030, if the Government’s stated aim of a 20% share of nuclear electricity is reached, or less if this is not the case.
The apparent absence of consideration of 2025 target by Japan is a significant issue. The question of the length of commitment periods post 2020 remains unresolved but many governments are calling for five years (2021 to 2025) in large part due to the risk of locking in low levels of ambition if 2030 is set as the end date for commitments. The unofficial reports of Japan’s proposed 2030 target confirm this concern.
Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) is also likely to be an issue in the INDC, given that Japan is planning to use forest management credits to meet its 2020 pledge, and would appear set to do so for 2030. Given that - for 2020 - the Japanese Government is planning to use a gross-net approach for forest management, with a credit of around 3% of 1990 industrial emissions, it is plausible that this would be continued, and would reduce the effectiveness of the unofficial 2030 goal from an 11% reduction from 1990 levels to about 8%.
There is also concern in relation to Japan’s proposed overseas crediting system, which could be applied to its 2030 goal, where credits are to be obtained from Japan’s own bilateral offset programme for installing cleaner coal power stations in developing countries. This would allow a further increase in Japan’s domestic emissions and as well degrade global efforts to decarbonise the energy system.
2020 pledge: In November 2013 Japan revised its earlier, 2020 pledge, aiming to reduce its emissions by 3.8% below fiscal year 2005 levels of industrial GHG emissions by 2020. This would be equivalent to an increase of 5.2% above 1990 levels before accounting for Japan’s proposed use of forest management credits, which would add about 3.1% to the allowed 2020 industrial emissions , or, in total, allowing an increase of about 8.3% above 1990 levels. In addition it has been estimated  that about 20 MtCO2e of overseas credits could be used, adding a further 1.6% to the allowed domestic emission. Taking together LULUCF credits and overseas credits, Japan’s 3.8% below 2005 pledge for 2020 translates into a total increase in domestic emissions in 2020 of about 10% above 1990 levels.
The November 2013 revised 2020 pledge is a serious decrease in ambition compared to the original Copenhagen pledge of 25% below 1990 levels. If it follows through on its renewable energy policy, Japan would be on track to meet the revised 2020 pledge without having to use forest sinks and overseas credits, despite the fact that it has stopped the operation of the vast majority of its nuclear power plants. While a weaker implementation of its renewables policy would lead to an emissions level that is 22 MtCO2e or 1.7% 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 revised 2020 target.
Japan is currently undergoing a process to develop its INDC for the post 2020 period. While the commitment has not yet been officially announced newspaper articles report a possible target for the year 2030.
According to the Japanese Nikkei newspaper, Japan might put forward an emissions reduction target of 20% below 2013 in 2030 (Nikkei 2015), which, we calculate, would correspond to a target of 11% below 1990 levels. It remains unclear whether this target will include LULUCF removals or sources, accounting rules for LULUCF apply, or whether it is planned for international offsets, acquisition of units, or credit for other means of implementation, to be credited towards this goal.
However, given that these element are applied in the 2020 pledge it can be assumed that these arrangements would continue. For 2020 Japan’s BUR estimated about 38 MtCO2e crediting from forest management, and a similar number is assumed here for 2030 Full crediting of the forest management removals could reduce the effectiveness of its 2020 pledge target by around 3.1%, effectively allowing an increase of industrial GHG emissions from 5 of 1990 emissions for its 2020 pledge.
In parallel to developing its INDC submission to the UNFCCC, Japan is preparing an energy strategy that forms an integral part of achieving this target. Similar to the post 2020 commitment, this strategy is currently under development and its content has so far only appeared in newspaper articles. What is known, however, suggests a strategy that is in strong contrast to one that is compatible with a long-term transition that is 2 degree compatible.
The energy strategy will likely foresee that the share of base load power plants will increase from 40% currently to 60% in 2030 (Reuters 2015). Base load power can at present only be provided by a limited number of power plant types, including nuclear power, coal fired power plants, as well as a number of selected renewable energy sources (esp. geothermal and hydropower).
The ongoing discussion around Japan’s energy strategy, as reflected in the Reuters article, foresees a large share (approx. 30% in 2030) of total electricity produced to come from coal fired power plants as part of this base load (Reuters 2015).
This share could increase even further as the foreseen nuclear contribution (app. 20% in 2030) is challenged by the desire of a large portion of the public to phase out nuclear power plants (Reuters 2015). The strategy is paralleled by a recent surge in the planning and construction of coal fired power plants that, according to an independent Japanese NGO, could lead to an increase of Japan’s total GHG emissions of 10% of 1990 emissions or 127 MtCO2e (Kiko Network 2015). They calculate there are 43 new coal plants in the pipeline, which would add 21.2GW to the system.
Increasing the role of base load technologies in an energy system is the diametric opposite of what can be observed in most countries on a path to a low carbon society. Strategies in most countries foresee a significant increase of variable renewable energy resources. This requires a paradigm shift in how energy systems are structured and managed and will increase their complexity. Such shifts take time and require the development and rollout of new technologies such as differently designed distribution networks (see e.g. Bloomberg 2015) Japan’s proposed energy strategy will not only delay this necessary shift but will also put Japanese industry at a competitive disadvantage with other countries that are currently undertaking these shifts.
On 15 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 in the form of forest management leads to a credit of 38 MtCO2e in 2020 , equivalent to about 3.1% of 1990 industrial emissions. As proposed by the Government of Japan these credits will lead to an allowed emissions level under the revised pledge of 1,343 MtCO2e in 2020, or about 8.3% above 1990 levels. In addition, the use of overseas credits can further increase the total allowed domestic emission levels under the pledge by 20 MtCO2e to 1357 MtCO2e in 2020, or 10 % above 1990 levels. This pledge has not yet been enshrined in domestic legislation (Kuramochi 2014a).
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, has 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 below 1990 levels by 2020. 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 the unconfirmed 2030 reduction target of 20% below 2013 levels as “inadequate” as it is only in line with the very least stringent of categories (capability/costs). Our assessment identifies a gap of 180 MtCO2e in 2030 compared to the level at which we would rate Japan’s contribution as “medium”. This equals 15% below 1990 emissions. A “sufficient” rating would require an emission level of 137 MtCO2e in 2030 or 79% below 1990 emission levels. Compared to the unconfirmed target there is a gap of 979 MtCO2e.
We rated Japan’s 2020 pledge “inadequate” as the emissions level is higher than any effort sharing category suggests. We would rate Japan’s former target of a 25% emissions reduction below 1990 levels as “medium”. This is slightly stricter than the rating in previous years, as the assessment now includes approaches that allow negative emissions allowances. For Japan, the categories equal cumulative per capita emissions and responsibility/capability/needs, and in later years also the approaches that 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.
Initial announcement of post 2020 target
The target for 2030 was calculated using preliminary figures of Japan’s national greenhouse gas emissions calculations for the year 2013 (Government of Japan 2015). We assumed LULUCF emissions, LULUCF accounting rules and international offsetting as excluded from the target
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.
Bloomberg (April 2015) Germany Proves Life With Less Fossil Fuel Getting Easier. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-12/germany-proves-life-with-less-fossil-fuel-getting-easier
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
Government of Japan. (2013). Japan’ s First Biennial Report. Retrieved from http://unfccc.int/files/national_reports/biennial_reports_and_iar/submitted_biennial_reports/application/pdf/br1_jpn_resubmission_v02.pdf (15/04/2014)
Government of Japan. (2015). Japan’s National Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 (Vol. 2013). http://www.env.go.jp/press/files/en/591.pdf
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.
Kiko Network (2015). A 20% Reduction Against 2013 Levels Approximately a 10% Reduction Against 1990 Levels. http://www.kikonet.org/eng/press-release-en/2015-04-10/Japan-2030-climate-target/ (10/04/2015)
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
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Nikkei (2015). http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGKKASDF08H1C_Y5A400C1MM8000/ (09/04/2015)
Reuters (2015). Japan's ruling party urges government to push for nuclear return http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/07/us-japan-nuclear-idUSKBN0MY0PH20150407, 07/04/2015
USEPA (2012). Global Mitigation of Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases, Washington, D.C., USA.
 Japan’s 2013 (revised 2014) First Biennial Report refers to an estimated 38 MtCO2e credit from forest management in 2020, equivalent to about 3.1% of 1990 industrial GHG emissions.
 In its 2013 BUR Japan states: “In accordance with "Basic Plan for Forest and Forestry" and "Act on Special Measures concerning Advancement of Implementation of Forest Thinning, etc."(2013), the Government will aim to secure the upper forest absorption level agreed in COP17, 3.5% (average of the period from 2013 to 2020) and contribute to the forest sector in the future. In order to achieve these objectives, the Government will work on the following through a variety of policy approaches: appropriate forest development such as thinning and afforestation, the proper management and preservation of protected and other forests, promoting the useof timber and woody biomass, promoting forest development programs where people participate in, accelerated implementation of initiatives to establish sustainable forest management practices, and promoting measures to diffuse seeds and seedlings that grow well”