Japan releases draft climate action plan, commits to 80% GHG cut by 2050

Published 06:48 on March 15, 2016  /  Last updated at 15:46 on March 15, 2016  /  Asia Pacific, Japan  /  No Comments

Japan on Tuesday released for public consultation a climate action plan that commits the nation to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% by mid-century, but it contained little in terms of new policies.

Japan on Tuesday released for public consultation a climate action plan that commits the nation to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% by mid-century, but it contained little in terms of new policies.

The plan, drafted by two committees under the ministries of environment and economy, is intended to put Japan on a path to meeting its Paris pledge of cutting GHG emissions 26% below 2013 levels by 2030.

It committed Japan to an 80% GHG cut by 2050, but did not specify the base year.

In addition, the action plan did not outline any new policies or targets, and focused primarily on technology development and encouraging voluntary emission cuts by business and industry.

“The main concern is measures on emissions from coal power plants. Since construction of many new coal plants are planned, the government will put in place some regulatory measures but, I suppose, with quite weak enforcement,” said Yukari Takamura, a climate policy expert and professor of international law at Nagoya University, who was part of the committee drawing up the draft.

Japan aims to limit coal’s share of electricity generation to 26% of the mix in 2030, but with more than 40 new coal-fired power plants planned in the country over the next decade, many observers have questioned whether it can meet that goal, especially after the Ministry of Environment last month gave up its resistance to approving new coal plants.

“The plan heavily relies on technology innovation and voluntary action plans, both of which industries favour, while it lacks ‘teeth’ in the form of emissions performance standards, cap-and-trade, increased level of carbon tax, mandatory energy efficient standards for factories, and so on, or concrete measures to deploy existing technologies,” one source told Carbon Pulse.

“It also tries to shift the burden to household and commercial sectors.”

“However, one of the reasons why household emissions are not decreasing is that electricity sources are getting dirtier, due to the increase of coal. Given the prospect of further increase of coal in the future, enhanced efforts in those sectors will be offset by poor performance in the power sector,” the source added.

Japan drew widespread criticism in 2013 after it weakened its 2020 emissions reduction target to -3.8% from -25% previously, a decision it attributed to shuttering its nuclear power fleet in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

ETS ON BACKBURNER

Despite pressure from industry to delete it, the final text in Tuesday’s draft included a provision to consider setting up a carbon market, as was part of the committees’ mandate.

“An ETS is to be considered carefully, taking into account impacts on domestic industries and its resultant effects on employment, trends and effects of the ETS abroad and assessment of operation of the existing domestic measures, such as voluntary action by industries,” the document said.

While that was the only reference to a domestic ETS, mentions of voluntary action were widespread throughout the 74-page document.

This suggests that no mandatory cap-and-trade market in Japan is imminent, although it is also not entirely off the table.

The draft plan will be out for public consultation for the next 30 days.

By Stian Reklev – stian@carbon-pulse.com

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