Japan steps up climate ambition with 2050 net zero emissions goal

The Japanese government has said it will cut the country’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, in the latest sign of growing momentum on international climate action.

Yoshihide Suga, who was elected prime minister last month, said curbing emissions was no longer a brake on economic growth. “We need to change our mindset that proactively taking measures against global warming will bring about changes to industrial structures, as well as the economy and society, and lead to major growth,” he told Japan’s parliament.

The net zero move marks a strong shift in ambition by the world’s fifth biggest emitter, up from an existing target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, and brings it level with the UK and EU. Japan’s past pledges had been rated “highly insufficient” by climate analysts.

The third largest economy in the world is heavily reliant on fossil fuels for its energy supplies, with electricity supplies overwhelmingly provided by coal and gas following the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011. However, solar power generation has grown rapidly in the past five years, and Suga mentioned “next generation” solar cells as one way to meet the country’s new goal.

The greater ambition is important not just domestically but because it injects further momentum into international efforts on meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

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