Silhouette of trees and carbon emissions in the distance

Japan’s latest emissions plan draws ire from green campaigners

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Japan has updated its plans to lower carbon emissions ahead of UN climate talks later this year, but climate campaigners have criticised its decision not to improve upon its old target of reducing CO2 output by 26 per cent from 2013 levels.

Japan “will pursue further efforts both in the medium-term and long-term, to reduce emissions beyond this level,” its government announced, although it has stuck to previous pledges when submitting its 'Nationally Determined Contribution' to the UN.

Japan is currently the fifth-largest carbon emitter in the world. While other developed nations have made at least some progress towards lowering their emissions in recent years, Japan’s have been slowly increasing.

It is now the only G7 nation still building new coal-fired power plants, one of the main sources of climate-warming emissions, as other countries wean themselves off this most-polluting fossil fuel.

Plans to generate low-carbon electricity were derailed following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. In September 2019, the Japanese environment minister said the country should scrap nuclear reactors altogether in order to avoid a repeat of that catastrophe. The Japanese government warned nuclear plants that it was ramping up its decommissioning programme and urged them to prepare for closure.

The Climate Action Tracker rates Japan's current plan to reduce emissions by 26 per cent on 2013 levels by 2030 as “highly insufficient”.

Investors managing $37tr in assets said earlier this year that Japan should endeavour to slash its emissions, saying that a strong signal from Tokyo could help kick off international climate action.

Environmental campaigners are concerned that the outbreak of Covid-19 could lead some countries to slow their carbon reduction plans in favour of bolstering the economy.

“Japan should not slow down climate actions even amid the Covid-19 global fights and must revisit and strengthen this plan swiftly in order to be in line with the Paris Agreement,” Kimiko Hirata, international director of Japanese climate group Kiko Network, told the Guardian.

She said that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared content “to settle for a low target and policies to continue to fund coal, which are firmly taking us down the path to economic and environmental ruin.”

Dr Kat Kramer, the global climate lead for charity Christian Aid, said that Japan’s commitment was “feeble” and “an international disgrace”.

“The fact they are smuggling it out during a global pandemic when it will avoid the scrutiny it deserves is shameful,” she added.

“Japan is a rich country that has the resources and historic responsibility to make big strides to decarbonise its economy. Yet it has utterly failed to enhance its highly insufficient pledge, that will only compound the misery of people on the front line of the climate crisis who need countries like Japan to act with urgency to do its fair share in addressing the climate crisis.”

“Japan not only plans to fail to reach net zero emissions by 2050 - which the IPCC indicates is needed to limit heating to 1.5°C - but relies on meeting its weak goal with unproven, and thus uncertain, technologies such as ‘artificial photosynthesis’.”

In February this year, Japan’s cabinet approved a bill to support companies developing secure 5G mobile networks and drone technologies amid growing alarm over the increasing influence of China’s 5G technology.

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