Pledges And Targets
Paris Agreement targets
Japan’s NDC includes an emissions reduction target of 26% below 2013 levels in 2030 (Government of Japan, 2017), which translates to a 18% reduction from 1990 levels, excluding LULUCF in the base year, but including LULUCF credits in the target year. The target contains 37 MtCO2e/year of credits from LULUCF in 2030. A large share will come from forest management, as was the case for Japan’s pre-2020 targets—this reduces the effectiveness of the target.
Japan intends to use credits obtained through LULUCF accounting to meet its 2030 target. According to the NDC, the Japanese government intends to use accounting rules “in line with approaches equivalent to those under the Kyoto Protocol.” This means that the activities of forest, cropland/grazing land managements and revegetation are projected to generate a credit of roughly 2.6% of total GHG emissions excluding LULUCF in 2013. This reduces the effectiveness of the 2030 goal from an 18% reduction below 1990 levels to about 15%, which is reflected in our quantification of the NDC. In this context, it should be noted that the Paris Agreement requires the negotiation and adoption of a common approach to methodologies for accounting, and it cannot be assumed that the Kyoto Protocol accounting system will be adopted.
Another uncertainty with the NDC relates to Japan’s proposed overseas crediting system (JCM). According to the NDC, while no crediting from the JCM system was assumed in calculating the target bottom up, “accumulated emission reductions or removals by Fiscal Year (FY) 2030 through governmental JCM programs to be undertaken within the government's annual budget are estimated to be ranging from 50 to 100 million t‑CO2” (Government of Japan, 2017). While there is room for interpretation, assuming that Japan achieves a cumulative JCM credit acquisition of 50–100 MtCO2 by linearly increasing the annual credit acquisition between 2014 and 2030, the credits acquired in 2030 would amount up to 6–11 MtCO2, which is roughly 0.5–0.9% of 1990 emissions. The potential impact of the JCM is not included in our assessment because it is not included in the bottom-up calculation of the NDC target level by the Japanese Government, and also because the future development of the scheme toward 2030 as well as the accounting approach under the Paris Agreement is uncertain.
Japan’s NDC is enshrined in the Plan for Global Warming Countermeasures, the establishment of which is obliged by the Global Warming Countermeasure Promotion Act and which was adopted by the Cabinet on 13 May, 2016 (MOEJ, 2016b). Japan ratified the Paris Agreement on 8 November 2016.
On 31 March, 2020, Japan resubmitted its first NDC without change to the UNFCCC (Government of Japan, 2020). This second, unchanged NDC was accompanied by a message from Minister of the Environment, Shinjiro Koizumi, indicating that the country will later communicate a more ambitious NDC. In July 2020, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Environment (MOEJ) accordingly announced they would soon embark on a process to revise the 2030 energy mix and GHG mitigation target (METI, 2020f). The first meeting was held on 1 September, 2020 (METI, 2020d).
On 15 November 2013, Japan announced a new pledge to reduce emissions by 3.8% below 2005 levels by 2020 including LULUCF credits. This pledge will result in an emissions level of 1,326 MtCO2e/year in 2020, equivalent to 4% above 1990 levels. For its original Copenhagen pledge, Japan communicated a target of a 25% emissions reduction below 1990 levels by 2020 (Government of Japan, 2010). 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 to ambitious targets. The revised 2020 pledge assumes zero nuclear power in 2020.
With regard to overseas credits, it has been estimated that about 20 MtCO2e/year of credits could be used, adding a further 1.6% to the allowed domestic emission (Kuramochi, 2014). It is, however, unlikely that Japan will use any overseas credits for 2020 as it is expected to significantly overachieve the 2020 pledge.
We estimate that LULUCF accounting in the form of forest management leads, revegetation and agricultural soil sinks to a credit of 47 MtCO2e in 2020 (Government of Japan, 2019a) equivalent to around 3.7% of 1990 emissions excluding LULUCF. As proposed by the Government of Japan these credits will lead to an allowed emissions level under the revised pledge of 1,373 MtCO2e/year in 2020, or around 8% above 1990 levels. The use of overseas credits can also further increase the total allowed domestic emission levels under the pledge. This pledge has not yet been enshrined in domestic legislation (Kuramochi, 2014).
The revised 2020 pledge of November 2013 was a serious decrease in ambition compared to Japan’s original Copenhagen pledge of 25% below 1990 levels (Government of Japan, 2010). Revision of the original pledge raises the 2020 target by more than 350 MtCO2e/year. While the Japanese government claims that this revision is mainly due to the future exclusion of nuclear energy from the energy mix (MOE, 2013), the basis of the 3.8% target is the pre-Copenhagen target (15% below 2005 levels) (The Cabinet, 2009), which was much less ambitious than the Copenhagen pledge.
Japan's target for the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2008–2012) was at -6% relative to base year (1990) emission levels. Japan overachieved the target by reducing its emissions by 8.4% including LULUCF credits and through the purchase of Kyoto units (MOEJ, 2014). Japan did not commit to a target for the second commitment period of the Protocol (2013-2020).
Right before hosting the G20 summit in June 2019, Japan submitted its long-term strategy under the Paris Agreement, which reiterates the 2050 target of the existing policy (MOEJ, 2016b) to reduce Japan’s GHG emissions by 80% from current levels (base year not specified) and sets an additional goal to achieve net zero emissions “as early as possible during the second half of the 21st century” (Government of Japan, 2019b). This net zero emission target is far from the ambition required to keep warming well below 2°C, let alone 1.5 °C, especially in the light of Japan’s common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.
The long-term strategy also shies away from committing to a complete phase-out of coal-fired power generation, even in the long term and instead heavily depends on the currently not commercially available technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) to perhaps justify the continued use of coal, contrary to the findings of the IPCC in its Special Report on the Paris Agreement 1.5 limit, where coal use for power needs to be phased out by 2030.
Japan’s long-term strategy also emphasises its plan for more sustainable car manufacturing (METI, 2018c). This document included targets of reducing tank-to-wheel CO2 emissions by 80% below 2010 levels by 2050 for all new vehicles produced by Japanese car manufacturers and 90% by 2050 for new passenger vehicles, with the latter assuming a near 100% share of electric vehicles (including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles).