Paris Agreement targets
On 22 April 2021, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced an updated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target, from the previous 26% to 46% below 2013 levels by 2030. In absolute terms, the target emissions in 2030 are lowered from 1042 MtCO2e/year to 766 MtCO2e/year (sum of sector- and gas-level targets), both including LULUCF credits (Government of Japan, 2021b). The government plans to investigate additional measures that could lead to a 50% reduction. The next step for Japan is to develop a new Basic Energy Plan consistent with the new target; the proposed energy mix will be of particular interest (see ‘Policy and action’ section for details). The government is expected to submit an updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC later this year.
To achieve the 46% target, Japan continues to use a gross-net approach, meaning that Japan does not include the LULUCF sector in its base year (gross) but accounts for net emissions and removals from LULUCF for the target year (net). In its draft NDC for public comments, Japan intends to use LULUCF sink credits up to 47.7 MtCO2e/year through forest, cropland/grazing land managements and re-vegetation, in line with approaches under the Kyoto Protocol but subject to change depending on the outcomes of future international negotiations (Government of Japan, 2021b). Taking the sector- and gas-specific target values in the draft NDC, this reduces the effectiveness of the 2030 goal from a 46% reduction below 2013 levels to 42% excluding LULUCF, which is reflected in our quantification. Such an account approach undermines the purpose of the Paris Agreement, as it allows for more energy and industry emissions, and should be scrutinised under the Paris Agreement.
Another uncertainty with Japan’s NDC relates to its proposed overseas crediting system (Joint Crediting Mechanism: JCM). While no crediting from the JCM was assumed in achieving the target, Japan intends to claim credits for part of the emissions reductions achieved under the JCM. According to the draft NDC, Japan aims to achieve a cumulative reduction of up to 100 MtCO2e by 2030 (Government of Japan, 2021b). 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 first NDC is enshrined in the Plan for Global Warming Countermeasures (GWC Plan) adopted in 2016, the establishment of which is obliged by the Global Warming Countermeasure Promotion Act (MOEJ, 2016b). The GWC Plan is expected to be revised before COP26 to incorporate the new 2030 target. Japan ratified the Paris Agreement on 8 November 2016.
The CAT rates Japan’s proposed domestic 2030 target as “Almost sufficient” and its fair share target as “Insufficient”.
We rate the proposed 2030 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 warming 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. 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 improvement.
We rate Japan’s proposed 2030 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 improvements 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 should 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 climate finance is rated “Critically insufficient” (see below) and is not enough to improve Japan’s fair share rating.
We rate Japan’s international public climate finance contributions as “Critically 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 reports significant levels of climate finance, but only a small share takes the form of grants or has climate as a primary objective (OECD, 2018). Overall contributions have increased but finance with climate change as a main component has sharply decreased in recent years (OECD, 2018), leading to their poor rating for contributions’ trend. Japan also counts 100% of broader development projects as climate finance - even though those are explicitly defined as not primarily targeting climate action (Carty et al., 2020). The CAT accounted for these factors and the resulting finance considered in this rating is considerably lower than originally reported by the government.
While Japan has contributed to the achievement of the USD 100 billion goal yearly until 2020 and commits ‘to maintain the same level of amount beyond 2020’, it has not contributed enough. Additionally, the USD 100 billion goal itself is insufficient post-2020. A clear and sustained increase in international climate mitigation finance is fundamental in the post-2020 period.
Japan previously promised USD 1.5 billion to the Green Climate Fund in 2014 as well as USD 637 million for the Green Environment Facility (GEF) in 2018 (Government of Japan, 2018). In April 2021, Japan pledged to mobilize JPY 1.9 trillion (USD 17.5 billion) in public and private finance as well as to contribute USD 3 billion to Green Climate Fund (GCF).
Japan is still investing in fossil fuels abroad, such as in the Vung Ang 2 Coal-Fired Power Plant in Vietnam and the Matarbari Coal Plant Expansion in Bangladesh (EndCoal, 2020). In late 2020, the publicly-funded Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) signed an agreement for funds of about USD 636 million for the Vuang Ang 2 coal-fired power plant project in Vietnam, although the funds were intended for environmental preservation (McKerr, 2021).
The position of JBIC on coal-fired power plants is, however, changing. Following the G7 Summit, JBIC’s governor stated that JBIC will finance overseas coal-fired power plants if they come with emissions reduction measures such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and ammonia co-firing (Obayashi, 2021). As part of the G7, Japan committed to end “new direct government support for unabated international thermal coal power generation by the end of 2021” (G7 United Kingdom, 2021). To stop fossil fuel finance abroad is a fundamental step to improve Japan’s CAT international climate finance rating.
Further information on how the CAT rates countries (against modelled pathways and fair share) can be found here.
Last NDC update
Japan’s updated 2030 Paris Agreement target of reducing emissions by 46% below 2013 levels and to continue its challenge towards a 50% reduction is a significant step up from its current 26% reduction target.
However, the Japanese government did not fully live up to the expectations that it would commit to a 50% reduction target and join the club of global climate leaders. This weaker-than-expected target may also put Japan in a disadvantageous position in a global economy that will be driven by the race to net zero emissions.
The next crucial step in the coming months is for the Japanese Government to develop a new Basic Energy Plan that is consistent with this new 46% target. The draft plan proposes a revised 2030 electricity mix target of 36‑38% renewable electricity (previously 22-24%), 20-22% nuclear (unchanged), 20% gas (previously 27%) and 19% coal (previously 26%) (METI, 2021b). While the indicated share of decarbonised electricity is roughly in line with our 1.5oC benchmark, keeping 19% of coal-fired power generation is completely inconsistent with the virtually full coal phase-out needed by 2030 (Climate Action Tracker, 2021). The Japanese government is also expected to investigate possible measures to achieve 50% emissions reductions.
Net zero and other long-term target(s)
We evaluate Japan’s net zero target as: poor.
In October 2020, PM Yoshihide Suga announced Japan’s target to reach net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 (Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet, 2020). 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 (Jiji Press, 2021; MOEJ, 2021b). The Green Growth Strategy revised in June 2021 provides sector-level, technology-focused roadmaps towards net zero (METI, 2021c). 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 (Government of Japan, 2021a). For these reasons, the CAT rates Japan’s net zero target as “Poor”.
The “Green Growth Strategy Through Achieving Carbon Neutrality in 2050” laid out technologies that the government sees as key to achieving 2050 net zero (METI, 2021c). The Green Growth Strategy indicates Japan’s will to develop innovative technologies such as hydrogen and ammonia fuels, so-called “carbon recycling” (including Bioenergy Combined with Carbon Capture and Storage – BECCS), or next generation solar cells. However, it is important to note that the strategy provides little information on the scaling up of existing low-carbon technologies and does not indicate intermediary targets to guide policies on the way to carbon neutrality.
The energy mix sketched out for 2050 also gives a large role to nuclear power and fossil fuel-power equipped with Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) – with an indicated share of 30-40% in the earlier version of the Green Growth Strategy (The Government of Japan, 2020); we note in a recent briefing that the prioritisation of renewables by 2030 would give Japan a better chance at achieving 100% renewables by 2050 (see current policy projections for details).
For our full Japan net zero analysis click here.
On 15 November 2013, Japan announced a new pledge to reduce emissions by 3.8% below 2005 levels by 2020 including LULUCF credits. 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 assumed zero nuclear power in 2020. Japan’s most recent National GHG Inventory Report indicates that the country had already overachieved its target by a large margin, achieving a 12.3% reduction below 2005 levels by 2013 without including LULUCF credits (GIO & MOEJ, 2021).