New Prime Minister Declares Japan will Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Zero by 2050

New Prime Minister Declares Japan will Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Zero by 2050

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe, Japan has since experienced several significant climate disasters and adopted new policy changes. In this report, we are highlighting some of the most significant changes.

In late summers and early autumns, Japan is often hit by tropical cyclones that devastate regions along the coasts with very heavy rains. Having just recovered from the typhoons in October 2019, record rains in July 2020 in Kumamoto Prefecture on the island of Kyushu caused devastating floods and killed at least 65 people. It’s been reported that a total of 147 banks at 75 rivers in the Kyushu region collapsed following the typhoons these two years and the subsequent torrential rainfalls. The heavy floods and strong winds have also brought an inflow of sediment into paddy fields and flood water into farmland—damaging rice crops upon harvest season.

In his first policy speech since taking office on October 22nd, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared Japan will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to effectively zero by 2050. This brings the country’s targets in line with the European Union as well as China and Korea as of recent months. While this is a groundbreaking step, doubt has been cast by environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, about its feasibility as few specifics were provided about how this goal would be reached as it contradicts several measures in place. For instance, Japan is in the process of building 17 new coal-burning power plants across the country. There has also been confusion on the role of nuclear power in achieving this target. Following the 2001 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster, the number of operating nuclear reactors has since reduced from 54 to 9. Nuclear energy reportedly accounted for only 7.5 percent of Japan’s total power output in 2019. Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Upper House secretary-general Hiroshige, and Prime Minister Suga have sent mixed messaging on whether nuclear power will be safely resumed, halted indefinitely, or undecided. (Corben, 2020).

On October 12th,  Japan launched a series of policy discussions to review and revise the country’s Strategic Energy Plan towards the 2030 energy mix, headed by the “Growth Strategy Conference (成長戦略会議).”  The results are due to be presented by mid-2021. Under the current plan, renewables are expected to provide 22-24% of power generation, nuclear around 22-20%, and coal, oil, and gas accounting for 56% of the energy mix (Farand, 2020). However, in the first half of 2020, the International Energy Agency reported that renewable energy production has spiked so dramatically to 23.1% of Japan’s overall energy generation that it is already in line with the government’s 2030 target. This raises hope for more ambitious renewable energy targets leading up to 2030. The outcome will greatly impact immediate action and the achievability of the 2050 target.

Activity Rating: *** Right Direction

The recent announcement by Prime Minister Suga is a substantial step towards complying with the Paris Agreement. However, we encourage the Japanese government to take more concrete steps as soon as possible in order to fulfill its pledges. As evidenced by the disasters in Kyushu, the effects of climate change are becoming more and more serious.


Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (JCN 4000012090001)
1-3-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8901, Japan Tel: +81-(0)3-3501-1511


Related Links:

News 1 – 

Recent typhoons, storms defeated riverbanks rated up to the task : The Asahi Shimbun. (2020).

Retrieved 7 November 2020, from

Japan Spent Mightily to Soften Nature’s Wrath, but Can It Ever Be Enough? (Published 2019).

(2020). Retrieved 7 November 2020, from

News 2 – 

Farand, C. (2020). Japan set to announce 2050 net zero emissions target – report. Retrieved 6

November 2020, from


Corben, T. (2020). Nuclear Power and Japan’s 2050 Climate Pledge. Retrieved 7 November

2020, from

Japan announces enhanced climate commitments: Greenpeace response – 国際環境NGOグ

リーンピース. (2020). Retrieved 7 November 2020, from

Suga plans to state goal of net zero emissions by 2050 in speech : The Asahi Shimbun. (2020).

Retrieved 7 November 2020, from

Japan’s New Leader Sets Ambitious Goal of Carbon Neutrality by 2050. (2020). Retrieved 7

November 2020, from

Aaron Sheldrick, Y. (2020). Japan set to target zero emissions by 2050 in policy shift. Retrieved

7 November 2020, from

News 3- 

Japan | Climate Action Tracker . (2020). Retrieved 7 November 2020, from

Japan’s METI kicks off policy discussions to review 2030 energy mix | S&P Global Platts.

(2020). Retrieved 7 November 2020, from


Japan logs sharp rise in renewable energy output amid pandemic : The Asahi Shimbun. (2020).

Retrieved 7 November 2020, from

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Japan Country Manager Yun-Tzu (Allison) Lin


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