Japan’s mooted climate target “inadequate” say analysts

Tokyo’s investments in coal power will lock in emissions growth, experts warn, as it mulls climate plan for UN deal

By Ed King

Japan’s potential climate target of 20% below 2013 emission levels by 2030 has been branded “inadequate” by analysts, who say it’s in line with dangerous levels of global warming.

Reports last week in the Nikkei newspaper and Japan Times suggested the world’s fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases was finalising its proposals with a view to shortly submitting its contribution to a proposed UN climate pact.

The commitments under discussion are significantly weaker than Japan’s previous pledges to the UN, according to the team at Climate Action Tracker (CAT).

“If the Japanese government were to announce this target, it would rate as “inadequate”: if all countries adopted this level of ambition warming would likely exceed 3–4C in the 21st century,” they say.

“With the policies it already has in place Japan can reach this target without taking any further action.”

Governments have agreed to try and avoid 2C of warming above pre-industrial levels. Scientists say if this level is breached floods, droughts and the rate of sea level rise will intensify.

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The 2011 tsunami and subsequent Fukushima disaster led to a reassessment of Japan’s energy mix, with coal replacing atomic power for electricity.

As a result, in 2013 Toyko announced new climate targets, aiming for a 3% emissions rise on 1990 levels by 2020 – a sharp contrast to its 2010 goal of 25% cuts on a 1990 baseline.

And despite a surge in solar investment last year, CAT analysts say the country’s wider energy strategy is incompatible with long term decarbonisation.

“Indeed, the contrary is the case, as coal-fired power plants are set to play an increasingly important role,” they say.

“The share of low carbon options in the energy supply sector will increase only slightly from 37.5% before the Fukushima crisis (2009; IEA 2013) to approximately 43–45% in 2030, if the Government’s stated aim of a 20% share of nuclear electricity is reached, or less if this is not the case.”

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