At the Leaders’ Climate Summit in April 2021, Japan announced a new 2030 domestic emissions reduction target of a 46% reduction by 2030 from 2013 levels, with the possibility of additional measures to achieve a 50% reduction. This new target, expected to be submitted as an updated NDC to the UNFCCC before COP26, is a significant step forward from the current 26% reduction NDC target, even though it falls short of a 60% reduction that a recent CAT briefing estimated to be 1.5°C-compatible.
A revised Basic Energy Plan based on this new target is expected to be published in mid-2021, defining Japan’s future energy mix, in preparation for the submission of the updated NDC. Early reports indicate that the revised 2030 electricity mix target will be 36-38% renewable electricity (previously 22-24%), 20-22% nuclear (unchanged), 22% gas (previously 27%) and 19% coal (previously 26%).
While the indicated share of decarbonised electricity is roughly in line with our 1.5°C benchmark, keeping 19% of coal-fired power generation is completely inconsistent with the virtually full coal phase-out needed by 2030. The reported 22% share of nuclear power also appears unrealistic, given the strength of local opposition to the re-opening of plants, and accompanying legal challenges: our estimate is that it would be in the range of 5-17%, with the gap needing to be taken up by renewable energy and storage.
Japan also appears to be moving slowly away from financing coal overseas, although it is still investing in plants in Vietnam and Bangladesh. However, the position of its publicly-funded Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), with its governor announcing it will only fund coal-fired power plants if they come with emissions reduction measures such as (the still commercially unviable) carbon capture and storage. And Japan joined the G7’s commitment to end “new direct government support for unabated international thermal coal power generation by the end of 2021".
The CAT rates Japan’s climate targets, policies and finance as “Insufficient”. The “Insufficient” rating indicates that Japan’s climate policies and commitments need substantial improvements to be consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit.
We rate Japan’s recently proposed 2030 domestic emissions reduction target as “Almost sufficient” and it is consistent with 2°C of warming when compared to modelled domestic emissions pathways. Although the proposed target represents a significant improvement compared to its first NDC, Japan’s new target is not stringent enough to limit warming to 1.5°C and needs further improvements. We rate Japan’s overall fair-share contribution as “Insufficient” as its domestic target is not 1.5°C compatible and its contribution to mitigation abroad through climate finance is highly insufficient. Japan should both increase its emissions reduction targets and provide additional, predictable, finance to others to meet its fair-share contribution. To achieve its target, Japan would need to enhance its current policies and actions.
We rate Japan’s policies and action as “Insufficient”. The “Insufficient” rating indicates that Japan’s climate policies and action in 2030 need substantial improvements to be consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit. If all countries were to follow Japan’s approach, warming would reach over 2°C and up to 3°C.
We project that the implemented policies will lead to emission levels of 25% to 35% below 2013 levels in 2030, excluding LULUCF and considering the impact of the COVID-19. Japan will significantly overachieve its first NDC target with current policies but still remains far short of its new target.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant effect on Japan’s economy. The nation’s energy and industry CO2 emissions in 2020 are estimated to have dropped by 7% compared to 2019 levels (Le Quéré et al., 2020). The impact of COVID-19 comes up on top of an already declining trend in GHG emissions, which dropped on average 2.5%/year between 2013 - 2019 excluding LULUCF (compound average growth rate) (GIO & MOEJ, 2021). The Japanese government’s implemented response measures to address COVID-19 so far include few policy measures that would be considered as “green recovery” (Vivid Economics, 2021).
Together with recent announcements in 2020 to phase out inefficient coal-fired power plants and boost offshore wind power, the government's current policies are projected to bring emissions down to 25% - 35% below 2013 levels, an outcome that will still be far from the new 2030 target, let alone a Paris Agreement-compatible transition1.5°C-consistent pathway (Climate Action Tracker, 2021).
The full policies and action analysis can be found here.
We rate the proposed 2030 domestic reduction target of 46% (42% excluding LULUCF credits) below 2013 levels as “Almost sufficient” when compared to modelled domestic emissions pathways. The “Almost sufficient” rating indicates that Japan’s proposed domestic target in 2030 is not yet consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit but could be, with moderate improvements. If all countries were to follow Japan’s approach, warming could be held at—but not well below—2°C. While the proposed target represents a significant improvement compared to its first NDC, Japan’s new target is not stringent enough to limit warming to 1.5°C and needs further improvement.
The CAT’s assessment of Japan’s total fair share contribution takes into account its emissions reduction target and its climate finance.
We rate Japan’s proposed 2030 domestic reduction target of 46% (42% excluding LULUCF credits) below 2013 levels as “Insufficient” when compared with its fair-share emissions allocation. The “Insufficient” rating indicates that Japan’s fair share target in 2030 needs substantial improvement to be consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit. Some of these improvements should be made to the domestic emissions target itself, others could come in the form of additional financial support for emissions reductions in developing countries. Japan’s target is not consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit, unless other countries make much deeper reductions and comparably greater effort. If all countries were to follow Japan’s approach, warming would reach up to 3°C.
Japan’s international public climate finance contributions are rated highly insufficient. Japan remains committed to climate finance in the period post-2020 but contributions to date have been very low compared to its fair share. To improve its rating Japan needs to stop funding fossil fuel overseas and accelerate commitments to increase climate finance.
Japan’s climate finance is not sufficient to improve the fair share target rating, and the CAT rates Japan’s overall fair share contribution as “Insufficient”.
We evaluate the net zero target as: “poor”. In October 2020, PM Yoshihide Suga announced Japan’s target to reach net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. An amendment of Japan’s framework climate law, the Promotion Act on Global Warming Countermeasures, to legally enshrine the 2050 net zero goal passed the Diet on 26 May, 2021. The Green Growth Strategy revised in June 2021 provides sector-level, technology-focused roadmaps towards net zero. However, both the amended Promotion Act and the revised Green Growth Strategy do not provide sufficient details on key elements that ensures effectiveness and transparency of net zero targets, including emissions scope, use of carbon dioxide removals, and review process. The draft of an updated Long Term Strategy, which is to be submitted to the UNFCCC before COP26, also does not contain these details.