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Japan aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050: prime minister

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Tokyo — Japan will aim for carbon neutrality by 2050, bringing forward the previous target of early in the second half of the century, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Oct. 26.

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"We declare here to aim for 2050 carbon neutrality, realizing a decarbonized society," Suga said in his first general policy speech at the country's extraordinary Diet session that began Oct. 26.

Japan, the world's fifth largest emitter of carbon dioxide, has also said it aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 under its commitment to the Paris Agreement.

"We need to change our way of thinking that taking active measures against [global] warming is leading to massive growth from reforms in industrial structure and economic society," Suga said.

"[Technological] innovation [such] as next generation solar battery and carbon recycling will be key," he said, adding that Japan will not only accelerate research and development of these technologies but also boost green investments to aim for a decarbonized society.

Green push

Following the premier's remarks, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama told a press conference that METI will take leadership in driving Japan's push for achieving carbon neutrality, with the ministry launching a new cross-divisional green-growth strategy office effective in the day.

"In order to achieve carbon neutrality, efforts by the energy sector, which accounts for more than 80% of greenhouse gas [emissions] will be important," Kajiyama said.

"In a carbon neutral society, where the electric power demand is expected to increase, we will maximize the use of renewable energy and nuclear power as well as pursuing new options such as hydrogen in response to that," he said.

METI sees hydrogen, storage battery, carbon recycling and offshore wind power are essential technologies to achieve carbon neutrality, and it intends to compile an action plan with specific timelines, frameworks and support measures to implement these technologies by the end of the year, Kajiyama added.

"While hydrogen, which has been mainly focused on vehicles, we will position it as new resources and consider a course for implementation in society by dragging in various players," he said. "We see carbon recycling as a key technology as part of our response to CO2 emissions from using fossil fuels, and we will consider specific measures for realization."

Energy mix

Suga's remarks came as Japan launched a series of policy discussions Oct. 13 to review the country's Strategic Energy Plan aimed at scrutinizing the progress made toward the 2030 energy mix, as it accelerates efforts to achieve a decarbonized society by early second half of the century.

"We intend to establish stable energy supply from ensuring energy conservation thoroughly and maximizing the introduction of renewable energy, as well as proceeding [with the] nuclear policy with [the] highest priority [on] safety," Suga told the Diet session. "We will take a drastic policy shift for [the country's] long used coal [-fired] thermal power generation."

Under the current plan, Japan targets reducing its share of fossil fuels in the energy mix for power generation to 56% by fiscal 2030-2031 (April-March),

compared with 77% in fiscal 2018-2019, in return for boosting its share in nuclear and renewable energy.

Nuclear energy accounts for 22-20% of the energy mix in fiscal 2030-31, up from 6% in fiscal 2018-19, while the 2030-2031 renewable energy will be up to 22-24% from 17% in the fiscal year to March 2019.

The 2030-31 fossil fuels share comprises 27% of LNG, 3% of oil and 26% of coal, compared with the 2018-19 share of 38% of LNG, 7% of oil and 32% of coal.