PM Suga Announces ‘aggressive approach’ to global warming . . .
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who took office just last month, announced on Monday that Japan will aim to cut greenhouse gases to zero and become a carbon-neutral society by 2050. He emphasized during his speech that climate policies and economic growth are not mutually exclusive, stating that “taking an aggressive approach to global warming will bring about a transformation in our industrial structure and economic system that will lead to big growth [in the economy].” This is a significant announcement, as Japan is the fifth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide globally and has been criticized in the past by environmental groups such as Greenpeace for its slow progress in cutting emissions.
How Japan plans to achieve its goal . . .
Suga plans to reach his goal through increased use of wind, solar, and nuclear energy. Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said that Tokyo would announce more specifics on its strategies by the end of the year. Some experts have questioned Japan’s ability to achieve carbon neutrality due to its economy’s strong dependence on coal and other fossil fuels. As reported by The New York Times, “achieving the new timeline will require a major overhaul of Japan’s infrastructure, which is highly dependent on carbon dioxide-producing fuels.” Notably, there is still lingering public opposition to nuclear power – due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown in 2011 – which could be an obstacle to Suga’s plan.
Climate policies important to mitigate ‘double disaster’ . . .
Japan’s new pledge follows China’s announcement in September that it would become carbon-neutral by 2060. Overall, more than 60 countries worldwide have committed to carbon neutrality, including Canada in 2019. Climate policies are becoming especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic because many countries face the “double disaster” of climate crises and COVID-19. The IFRC released a report in September stating that globally 51.6 million people, the majority of whom are in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka, have been affected by climate disasters since the onset of the pandemic. The struggle continues in Asia, with Vietnam facing the worst floods it has had in decades and India looking at extremely high air pollution levels. Japan’s new policy is an important step in the right direction.