Page last updated: 20th November 2013



Japan revised its 2020 pledge on 15 November 2013 and now aims to reduce emissions by 3.8% compared with fiscal year 2005 levels by 2020.  The new 2020 pledge is equivalent to an increase of 3.1% above 1990 levels and represents a strong decrease in ambition.

Japan is not on track to meet the new pledge with currently implemented policies. The policy pathway exceeds the revised 2020 target by 64 MtCO2e.  


Pledge description

Read more in our policy brief.


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 emission level of 1,306 MtCO2e in 2020, which is equivalent to 3.1% above 1990 levels. We estimate that LULUCF accounting leads to a small credit. If these credits are applied additionally; the revised pledge will lead to an emission level of 1,341 MtCO2e in 2020.

Prior to the economic downturn in 2009, Japan’s emissions had been fairly steady (1,300 – 1,370 MtCO2e) since the mid-1990’s. However, the economic downturn followed by the Fukushima disaster caused much greater fluctuations in emissions over the last 5 years. 

For their original Copenhagen pledge, Japan communicated a target of a 25% emission reduction by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, which was premised 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%. Our analysis indicates that the revision of the pledge cannot be fully explained by the removal of nuclear energy from the energy mix, but also represents a decreased lack of ambition (see below and CAT briefing).

Japan's Kyoto target (2008-2012) is -6% relative to base year (1990) emission levels.


Current trend description

Currently implemented policies will lead to an emission level of 1,370 MtCO2e in 2020 and 1,400 MtCO2e in 2030, excluding LULUCF. Emissions from LULUCF contributed 6% in 2011. Assuming that the trend will stabilise in the future, the emissions level in 2020 will rise to 1,451 MtCO2e including LULUCF.

After the challenges associated with the 2011 earthquake, the Japanese government decided to review its energy policy to take into account a commitment to reduce Japan’s reliance on nuclear energy. After a long debate a major piece of legislation “Innovate Strategy for Energy and environment” was released in September 2012. Japan continued to reassess its energy policy through 2013 under the newly elected government. This continued assessment resulted in the revised emissions pledge announced in November 2013, and considers a future in which there is no nuclear energy contribution.

The main focus of the September 2012 strategy is the long term phasing out of nuclear and fossil fuels by maximising green energy.  One pillar is the achievement of the 16% share of electricity generation from renewables in 2020 that is supported by feed-in tariffs and general funding of distribution networks. The initial impact of this policy is small and will result in only 4 MtCO2e reductions in 2020, but the impact will increase to 44 MtCO2e reduction in 2030. The low impact in 2020 is due to the fact that there was already a high share of renewables in 2010 (10%), and an optimistic projection of increasing electricity demand until 2020 (IEA 2013).

Despite the long term transformation of the electricity supply sector, Japan had already introduced effective policies in the area of energy efficiency in transport, industry and buildings.

Date of pledge
November 2013



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 they want to continue with the current Kyoto Protocol rules for forest management.

Current trends

For the current trend analysis we used the WEO 2013 Current Policy scenario (IEA 2013) covering energy efficiency policies and CO2 emissions. Those data were combined with non-energy data from US EPA (US EPA 2012) and Edgar (JRC/PBL 2012). The WEO did not cover the updated energy strategy which leads to higher REN targets than assumed in the WEO scenario. Therefore we additionally quantified the new targets assuming that the feed-in schemes are fully operating.  The additional reduction was subtracted from WEO 2013 since we used the underlying data of WEO.


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 (2011). Submission to the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP): Forest management reference level

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.

Prime Minister of Japan (2009). Prime Minister Yukio Hatamoto (2009) Statement by H.E. Yukio Hatoyama  at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change, 22 September 2009.

USEPA (2012). Global Mitigation of Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases, Washington, D.C., USA.