Solar park

Japan is stepping up its climate efforts with a net zero emissions target of 2050

By Adam Vaughan

A floating solar system in Japan

Carl Court / Getty Images

The Japanese government has announced that it will reduce the country's CO2 emissions to zero by 2050. This is the latest sign of increasing momentum in international climate protection measures.

Yoshihide Suga, who was elected prime minister last month, said curbing emissions is no longer holding back economic growth. "We need to change our mindset that proactive measures against global warming will transform industrial structures, the economy and society, and lead to strong growth," he told the Japanese parliament.

The net zero move marks a sharp shift in the world's fifth largest emitter's ambitions from its existing goal of cutting emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and aligns it with the UK and the EU. Japan's previous pledges were rated "very inadequate" by climate analysts.

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The world's third largest economy is heavily dependent on fossil fuels for its energy supply. After the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011, electricity is mostly provided by coal and gas. For the past five years, Suga mentioned next-generation solar cells as one way of reaching the country's new destination.

The greater ambition is important not only domestically, but also because it gives further impetus to international efforts to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

While the pandemic has resulted in the major UN climate summit of COP26 in Glasgow being postponed to next year, China has in recent weeks pledged to become climate neutral by 2060. The EU is taking steps to legislate its net zero target for 2050 Britain says it will present a more ambitious climate plan on December 12th.

Alok Sharma, the UK minister in charge of COP26, said he was "pleased" with Suga's announcement. Laurence Tubiana, the former French diplomat who helped draft the Paris Agreement, said she was "very pleased" but countries now need to come up with "robust plans" to achieve their goals.

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