Yoshihide Suga, during his first political address to Parliament since taking office in September, on October 26.

Despite its current dependence on coal, Japan is keen to establish itself as a leader in the fight against climate change. On Monday, October 26, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared that his country has set itself the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

“Responding to climate change is no longer an obstacle to economic growth”, the leader said in a speech, his first political announcement to parliament since taking office in September. The world’s third-largest economy, which signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, was the sixth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world in 2018, according to the International Energy Agency.

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Focus on innovation

The Prime Minister did not give a specific timeline for achieving this balance between greenhouse gas emissions and their absorption, but he did mention the importance of technology. “The key is innovation”, he said, citing in particular the new generation solar batteries.

Japan will also promote the use of renewable energies and nuclear energy, he added, stressing the importance of security in a country marked by the Fukushima disaster in 2011. The accident, following a major earthquake and tsunami, led to the temporary shutdown of Japan’s nuclear reactors and increased its dependence on fossil fuels.

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Global movement

Yoshihide Suga’s announcement places Japan in the lineage of China, which, on September 22, surprised the world by announcing to set a goal of carbon neutrality by 2060. The announcement was made by the President Xi Jinping, during his speech, by video conference, during the 75e session of the United Nations General Assembly (UN). The world’s leading polluter, responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, is also committed to reaching a peak in its CO emissions2 before 2030 – and no longer “around” 2030, as presented in its previous climate plan.

The Japanese announcement is also in line with those of the European Union. In mid-September, the European Commission proposed targeting a 55% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, against a target currently set at -40%, in order to reach the “Carbon neutrality” in 2050. The European Parliament has called for a reduction of at least 60%. But the reluctance of several Eastern European countries, including Poland, which is very dependent on coal and which refuses to promise its carbon neutrality by 2050, complicates the situation.

Five years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, states must raise their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets before the end of the year. However, for the moment, only fourteen countries, which represent only 3.8% of global emissions, have submitted their new plans to the UN, according to the count by the American think tank World Resources Institute.

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Le Monde with AFP and Reuters

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