Road to Paris: Japan to leave the hard work to others Opinion Article

May 01, 2015 - 3:31pm

This article was first published in the Climate Spectator on 1 May 2015. 

Erwin Jackson    
Deputy CEO, The Climate Institute

Last night, a draft Japanese post-2020 target was presented in the joint advisory committee under the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The draft target is 26% reduction below 2013 by 2030 (25.4% below 2005 levels by 2030).

The final initial offer target is being considered in the context of an announcement at the G7 in June. The EU think tank E3G has released a useful briefing note on the diplomatic implications of Japan’s stance on climate change.

Overall, The Climate Institute’s initial analysis suggests that:

1.  The target is not a fair and ambitious contribution to avoiding 2 degrees

Japan’s target is not a credible contribution to avoiding a 2 degrees increase in global temperature above pre-industrial levels. To avoid 2 degrees, the global benchmark for advanced countries like Japan is a reduction of about 50% by 2030 on 2010 levels (according to the IPCC's 'mitigation' chapter its 2014 Fifth Assessment Report). If it sticks to this target, much more rapid reductions will be required for it to contribute fairly to avoiding 2-degree warming, and to achieve Japan’s long-term goal of 80% reductions below 1990 levels by 2050.

The target is also inadequate when compared with those of Japan’s international peers. For example, by 2025 Japan would have cut its emissions by less than other advanced economies, regardless of the base year used as illustrated in Figure 1 (to allow comparison, all targets in the figures below have been converted to 2025 levels).

Figure 1: Japan’s target, in 2025, compared to other nations and on different base years.

Note: Emissions data includes LULUCF and is based on data submitted to the UNFCCC. Population data is based on UN forecasts. Economic data is based on the IMF’s World Economic Outlook.

2.     The target is a progression of effort

Japan’s climate and energy policy was thrown into chaos by the 2011 tsunami and its impacts on the nation’s nuclear industry. This saw Japan weaken its 2020 emissions reductions target, which will now allow Japan to increase its emissions to 2020. However, the new 2025 target would be a significant acceleration of emissions reduction effort after 2020. To meet its 2025 target, Japan will need to accelerate its rate of emission reductions and would nearly match the US’s accelerated rate of reductions (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Annual rate of emissions reductions of targets announced so far.




3. Japan risks its competitive position in a zero-carbon world

Japan will still be a low emitter per person by global standards and its economy will have relatively low emissions intensity (For example, Figure 3). However, the trends in these indicators would remain fairly flat. Japan risks losing its competitive position as a relatively low emissions economy as countries like the US make greater efforts to decarbonise.

Figure 3: Change in per capita emissions to 2025 (based on announced targets).

Erwin Jackson

Erwin is Deputy CEO of The Climate Institute. With nearly 20 years practical experience in climate change policy and research, Erwin has developed and led many national and international programs aimed at reducing greenhouse pollution. This work has been undertaken in Australia, Europe, North and South America, the Pacific and Antarctica. He has represented non-governmental groups and advised government and business in national, regional and international fora, including being a non-governmental expert reviewer of the reports of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Erwin has written, researched and produced many publications on climate change and energy policy including a number of review papers in scientific journals such as the Medical Journal of Australia.
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