Japan’s Continued Reliance on Fossil Fuels Poses Largest Climate Obstacle

Japan’s Continued Reliance on Fossil Fuels Poses Largest Climate Obstacle

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

Last October, Prime Minister Suga pledged Japan’s intentions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 and achieve a decarbonized society. Reaching this 2050 goal will require steep emission reductions by 2030. However, a major obstacle to this goal is Japan’s continued reliance on fossil fuels. Japan operates over 150 coal-fired power plants, while more are undergoing construction. Japan has long been heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels. In 2019, fossil fuels accounted for 88% of total primary energy supply (“Japan…” 2021).

A key factor that hinders Japan’s transition from fossil fuels such as coal and oil to a stable renewable energy supply is Japan’s geographic location. The combination of a high population density and mountainous geography pose challenges of establishing a connected energy grid and a lack of available land to develop renewable energy projects. Furthermore, Japan has not halted its use of fossil fuels because of the operations of industrial plants and steel plants where high-temperature heat sources are essential.

To overcome these obstacles and achieve its 2050 targets, the Japanese government needs to develop policies that address the country’s under tapped renewable energy potential. A report by Professor Oshiro from Kyoto University found that “the expansion of low-carbon power sources such as solar, thorough energy conservation and the promotion of demand for electric power sources would make an 80% fossil fuel reduction within reach,” bringing Japan closer to its carbon neutrality targets (“Making…” 2021). More efforts also should target the development of renewable technologies including wind and geothermal, for which Japan’s energy potential is large (“Japan…” 2021). For example, according to IRENA, Japan has the third-highest potential for geothermal energy in the world (23 GW). Yet, it currently uses only around 2%. Of its existing information.

Contact Information:

Hiroshige Seko

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry

Contact Information:

  • Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Web: https://wwws.meti.go.jp/honsho/comment_form/comments _send.htm
  • Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Secretariat of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy Director General Affairs Division Strategic Planning Division : Akamatsu, Tomizawa, Ozawa Phone: 03-3501-1511 (extension 4471) 03-3501-2096 (direct) 03-3580-8426 (FAX)

Learn More Resources:

Siripala, T. (2021). Japan’s Carbon Neutral Future Divided Over Climate Pricing – Tokyo Review.

Retrieved 24 June 2021, from


Japan 2021 – Analysis – IEA. (2021). Retrieved 26 June 2021, from


Potential of Renewable Energy in Japan. (2021). Retrieved 27 June 2021, from


Making Japan carbon neutral by 2050 is huge challenge. (2021). Retrieved 27 June 2021, from




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