Heavy on tech, light on any plans to tackle its coal dependency, Japan has released a long-term climate strategy
Hours before the UK announced it would legislate to go net zero by 2050, the centre-right cabinet of the world’s third largest economy approved a plan setting “a carbon-neutral society as the final goal, and seek[ing] to realise it at the earliest possible time in the latter half of this century”.
The strategy builds on a 2016 pledge to slash emissions by 80% by 2050 from 2010 levels, and sets out to innovate in areas such as hydrogen and carbon dioxide capture and utilization.
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It commits to commercializing carbon capture and utilization (CCU) technology by 2023, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) used in coal-fired power generation by 2030. It also aims to slash production costs of hydrogen to less than one-tenth by 2050.
The plan has been criticised for not tackling the country’s coal dependency. The fuel powered 33% of the country’s electricity in 2015, according to data from the World Bank, while Japanese banks and development agencies are financing coal-fired power plants from Vietnam to Indonesia. In Japan, 30 new coal-fired power plants are either at the stage of planning or construction.
Green groups said the legislation was unambitious. So-called “‘disruptive innovation’ [is] often used as an excuse to avoid the implementation of reduction measures by technologies that can be used immediately,” Yuri Okubo, a senior researcher at the Renewable Energy Institute, said, before warning that Japan risked becoming a “CCS, CCU, and hydrogen society”.
“If Japan still aims to [receive] a quarter of its power source from coal by 2030 and does not revise its low renewable energy target, Japan will not be seen as taking a serious stance on tackling climate change,” Okubo said.
This article was amended to clarify the status of the plan.