Japan’s G7 pledge at odds with domestic climate goals

Despite signing up to raft of carbon cutting plans, Tokyo lacks a domestic strategy to address climate challenge, say analysts

Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe (Pic: OECD/Flickr)

Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe (Pic: OECD/Flickr)

By Ed King

Japan is well off course to meeting the pledge it made with fellow G7 countries to target a low carbon energy system by 2050, according to an analysis of its climate goals.

Intense pressure from German chancellor Angela Merkel and counterparts from the EU, US and France saw prime minister Shinzo Abe back a raft of new carbon cutting plans on Monday.

But based on current policies the country will only draw around 42-45% of its energy from low carbon sources by 2030, says the team at Climate Action Tracker.

“Japan agreed in the G7 communique to complete the transition of its energy system towards decarbonisation by 2050, which is not possible with the current draft INDC,” said Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute, which helped produce this analysis.

“Japan’s proposed energy strategy will not only delay its shift to a low carbon economy, it will also put Japanese industry at a competitive disadvantage with other countries that are currently undertaking these shifts,” he added.

Japan is the world’s fifth highest greenhouse gas emitter and third largest economy.

On Tuesday an official at UN climate talks in Bonn confirmed it would deliver its contribution to a global emissions cutting deal by the end of July, after public consultation.

It’s expected to offer to cut carbon pollution 26% on 2013 levels by 2030, which equates to a 25.4% cut on 2005 levels.

Paris tracker: Who has pledged what for 2015 UN climate pact? 

That doesn’t stack up well compared to other major economies. The EU is aiming for 40% cuts on 1990 levels by 2030, the US 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030.

Japan’s offer could also be weakened because it intends to use growth of domestic forests, which act as carbon sinks, and carbon markets to meet its goals, says the analysis.

“The Climate Action Tracker rates this target as inadequate: if all countries adopted this level of ambition, warming would likely exceed 3-4C in the 2 century,” it says.

Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 Japan suspended operations at its atomic plants, focusing instead on importing oil, gas and coal. Nuclear is now forecast meet 20-22% of electricity needs from 2030.

According to the AP news agency, around 40 coal power plants are planned or being built in Japan, often funded directly through the government.

The country also stands accused of using funds marked as climate finance to retrofit and build new coal power plants.

In the past year the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been linked with coal plants in Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar.

Research from the Oil Change International NGO suggests Japan spent US$20 billion from 2007-2014 on overseas coal plants and mines.

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