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Japan Commits to Carbon Neutrality by 2050

Nov. 2, 2020
Over the next 30 years, Japan plans to make the steady progression over to being a carbon-neutral nation—a distinction that just one country has attained.

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A term used to describe the state of an entity where the carbon emissions it has caused have been balanced out by funding an equivalent amount of carbon savings elsewhere in the world, carbon neutrality is becoming a focal point for more companies, services, products and events.

Entire nations are also getting onboard with carbon neutrality. And while Bhutan is the only country so far to achieve the goal, Japan became the latest nation to throw its hat into the carbon neutral ring when it announced its intention to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to net zero by 2050.

The new target means Japan will catch up to the European Union (EU), which set the same goal last year, Nikkei Asia reports. “Companies in industries like electric power, automobiles, and steel will be expected to take strict measures to meet the international promise,” it adds.

Key measures that will help Japan over the carbon neutral finish line include promoting the use of renewable energy, next-generation solar cells and carbon recycling.

Making the Switch

According to the Washington Post, Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and its fifth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide. It has come under intense criticism from international environmental groups for continuing to build and finance coal-fired power plants, both at home and abroad.

“Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth,” Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a statement about the new development. “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.”

In 2017, Japan sourced more than 41% of its electrical power supplies from coal and oil, with natural gas accounting for almost 40%, the Washington Post points out. “Renewable energy made up about 16 percent, while nuclear power, still recovering from the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima accident, made up just 3 percent.”

Not All Easy

Under its current Basic Energy Plan, Japan aims to increase the share of renewables to 22%-24% percent by 2030, and nuclear power to between 20% and 22%. 

According to Japan Times, companies are already “rushing” to take measures to reach the government’s goal. “Automakers are accelerating their shifts to electric vehicles while steel-makers are developing technologies to reduce emissions,” it says.

For example, Toyota wants to cut carbon dioxide emissions from its new vehicles by 90% by 2050 (versus 2010’s levels), and Honda plans to raise the proportion of electric and fuel-cell vehicles in its total automobile sales to two-thirds in 2030. Both Toyota and Honda also released new electric vehicle models this year.

The transition to complete carbon neutrality won’t be easy for industry or for Japan as a whole, but the end results will likely make the effort worthwhile. One heavy electric machinery leader told Japan Times that the use of renewable energy sources will lead to a hike in electricity rates and cause companies to lose competitiveness. Cutting costs related to renewable energy sources is also a major challenge, it adds.

“Japan’s heavy dependence on coal-fired power generation is a major obstacle to the push for net-zero emissions,” Japan Times points out. “But people living around nuclear power plants remain staunchly opposed to restarting suspended reactors, and renewable energy sources hold the key to success.”

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About the Author

Bridget McCrea | Contributing Writer | Supply Chain Connect

Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers business and technology for various publications.