Japan set a goal to become carbon neutral and reach zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, officials announced on Monday.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made the commitment during his first policy speech to the country’s parliament since taking office last month, The Washington Post reported. The goal would be achieved through a “fundamental shift” in policy on coal use.
“Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth,” he said. “We need to change our thinking to the view that taking assertive measures against climate change will lead to changes in industrial structure and the economy that will bring about great growth.”
He said innovation revolving around solar cells and carbon recycling and investment in research and development will likely be central to reaching the new goal.
Suga’s goal would speed up the previous plans for the third-largest economy and fifth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, which committed to reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050 and reaching carbon neutrality after 2050.
The new commitment follows the European Union’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2050 and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s announcement last month that China aims to be carbon neutral by 2060.
Takashi Hongo, a senior fellow at Mitsui Global Strategic Studies Institute, told the Post that Japan’s promise would be hard to fulfill but is possible with the right policies.
“It’s pretty powerful,” Hongo said. “He was emphasizing a fundamental shift, and that indicates how strongly he feels about the change that needs to be made.”
Economy Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama acknowledged it would be difficult to achieve the new goal but committed to organizing Japan’s resources to be successful.
“We will work with the business world so a virtuous cycle with the economy can be created,” he said at a news conference after Suga’s speech, according to the Post.
Japan sourced more than 41 percent of its electrical power supplies from coal and oil, about 40 percent from natural gas, about 16 percent from renewable energy, and 3 percent from nuclear energy in 2017.
The country has planned to increase renewable energy to between 22 and 24 percent and nuclear power to between 20 and 22 percent by 2030, but new goals are expected to be announced next year.
Sam Annesley, the executive director of Greenpeace Japan, told the Post that Japan should strive for 50 percent of its electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030.
“Anything less than 50 percent and Japan risks falling short of net zero, and, more importantly, risks driving the world above 1.5 degrees as per the Paris agreement,” Annesley said.