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Japan’s Climate Plan “Inadequate”

October 20, 2015
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By Paul Homewood  




The top 20 emitters of CO2 account for 81% of global emissions. As Paris approaches, let’s see what commitments have been made by them to reduce GHG emissions.

Each country has been asked to submit an INDC, Intended Nationally Determined Contribution.

We have already looked at the pledges from China, the US, India and Russia, so let’s move along the list and check out the next biggest emitter, Japan.


Their basic promise is to reduce GHG emissions by 26% from 2013 levels by 2030.





GHG emissions, of course, include gases other than CO2, but essentially it is reduction in CO2 upon which the plan is based, with a target cut of 25% by 2030.




This sounds quite ambitious on the face of it, until we remember that emissions in 2013 were already 20% higher than in 1990. To hit the target, therefore, would only require a reduction of 10% from 1990 levels.

This pales into insignificance compared to the 40% cuts from 1990 committed by the EU.






Japan’s plan also gives us an idea how these reductions will take place.




1) Energy efficiency measures “will” reduce total energy consumption by 13% .

The trouble with statements such as these is that they are little more then wishful thinking, and avoid the need for concrete action. While a list of possible ways to achieve this is given, the reality is that economies and industry have always tended to become more “energy efficient” as time goes on. Does this plan actually go any further?

Worse still, while technology and the ever present pressure to reduce costs lead to energy efficiency, there is also a tendency as economies grow for more energy to be used. As the data shows, energy consumption grew steadily in Japan until the financial crisis in 2008, and then when energy was effectively rationed after Fukushima.




Whether Japan’s energy consumption target  is achieved remains to be seen.


2) Change in the energy mix.

What role will wind & solar play in reducing emissions? Surprisingly little, it appears.

Generation from wind and solar is planned to increase from its current share of 2.3% to just 8.7% by 2030. Colour me unimpressed!


While total generation is expected to change little, the main contributor to reduced emissions is expected to be nuclear, which generated nothing last year. By contrast, it should be producing 21% of Japan’s power by 2030, or about 224 TWh/yr, back close to pre Fukushima levels.







The view of Japan’s pledge from the Carbon Tracker website, which is keen to see robust action on climate change, rather says it all:


On 17 July 2015, Japan submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) which includes an emissions reduction target of 26% below 2013 emission levels by 2030, equivalent to 18% below 1990 levels by 2030. Once accounting of land Use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) accounting credits that Japan proposes is taken into account this target is reduced to 23.3% below 2030 (15% below 1990) levels of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel and industry.[1] The Japanese Government also proposes using the Japanese Crediting Mechanism (JCM), which could reduce the domestic target further to approx. 16 -20% below 2013 (7 – 11 % below 1990).

We rate this target as “inadequate”: if all countries adopted this level of ambition, global warming would likely exceed 3-4oC in the 21st century. With the policies it already has in place, Japan can almost reach its proposed INDC target without taking any further action. 

In addition, the energy strategy that was developed in conjunction with the target is not in line with what is needed to transform Japan’s energy sector to a low carbon economy. Indeed, the contrary is the case, as coal-fired power plants are set to play an increasingly important role in Japan. The share of low carbon options in the energy supply sector will increase only slightly from 37.5% before the Fukushima crisis (2009; IEA 2013) to approximately 42–46% in 2030, if the Government’s stated aim of a 20-22% share of nuclear electricity is reached, or less if this is not the case.

LULUCF is an issue in the INDC, given that Japan, intends to use credits obtained through LULUCF accounting to meet its 2030 target. According to the INDC, the Japanese Government intends to use accounting rules “in line with approaches equivalent to those under the Kyoto Protocol”. This means that the activities of forest, cropland/grazing land managements and revegetation are projected to generate a credit of roughly 2.6% of industrial emissions in 2013. This reduces the effectiveness of the 2030 goal from an 18% reduction from 1990 levels to about 15%.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    October 20, 2015 3:10 pm


    “Japan intends reductions by 2030 compared to 2013 maintaining its energy mix1, as a feasible reduction target. Japan has concrete policies, measures and individual technologies, but technological and cost constraints may mean Japan won’t achieve the target.”

    i.e Not worth the disk-space the pdf occupies.

    • October 20, 2015 4:23 pm

      Nearly everyone has used the techniques so well shown in “Yes Minister” in developing their INDCs. And of course China and India are “developing countries” so need no commitments apart from accepting monies.

  2. October 20, 2015 4:47 pm

    Interesting that South Africa sits next to the UK in the list, any reduction made by the UK will certainly be more than cancelled out by increases in just South Africa, as it continues to build more coal-fired power stations.

  3. October 20, 2015 5:45 pm

    So Japan is also in on the global warming swindle, who knew ..

  4. 3x2 permalink
    October 20, 2015 6:56 pm

    While total generation is expected to change little, the main contributor to reduced emissions is expected to be nuclear, which generated nothing last year.

    Japan has a notable lack of native resources eg Gas/Coal. Nuclear was then an obvious route to take. Doubtful though that, post Fukushima, it will be very easy for any Japanese government to promote more Nuclear as a way of meeting their energy needs.

    Wind and Solar are nice ideas but will never be more than a passing statistical contribution to their needs. If Nuclear is out of the mix then all that is left, currently, is a fossil fuel route.

    I won’t pretend to have a ‘handle’ on Japanese politics but unless the public are willing to go back to Nuclear then fossil fuels it is.

    Energy efficiency measures “will” reduce total energy consumption by 13%

    As you point out, industry, generally, attempts to be more efficient by its very nature. And especially so in the native resource starved Japanese case.

    I would just add that efficiency is fine but, once the ‘low hanging fruit’ has been used up, further measures become increasingly uneconomic/impractical.

    If, for example, I switch from a 100W incandescent lamp to a 50W halogen lamp then I might halve my lighting costs. If I then change my 50W halogen lamp for 5W LED lamp then I might see massive savings when compared to my original lighting scheme (incandescent) but that’s as far as it goes. Even if a technology were to be invented tomorrow that gave an acceptable output for near zero input the maximum I could now ‘save’ is now somewhere between (LED) 5W and not a lot.

    My main point here is that the 13% figure assumes that Japan is not already using LED lamps and so further efficiency gains will be just wishful thinking. And, let us not forget that the amount of energy required to boil 1 litre of water in 2015 will not have changed by 2030/50.

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