Japan’s Agriculture Sector Contributed .47% of Global Agricultural Emissions in 2021

The third-largest economy in the world, Japan accounts for 4.1% of the global GDP (IMF, 2022). And since 2015, its GHG emissions have been steadily declining, reaching 1.21 billion tonnes of CO2e100 in 2021, or 2.2% of the world, or half of the GDP share. In 2021, the agriculture sector in Japan produced 26.8M CO2e100 emissions or 0.47% of global emissions. Data from Climate Trace (2022) from 2015 to 2021 do not indicate consistent trends.

Source: Climate Trace (2022)

According to the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report of Japan (2022), the agricultural sector contributed 2.8% of all GHG emissions in Japan in 2020, while the energy sector contributed 86.5% and the industrial sector contributed 8.8%. The agricultural industry’s small GHG emission share has a minimal impact on the overall sector trend. Japan’s agriculture sector produced 37.5M tonnes of COs equivalent in 1990 and 32.2M tonnes in 2020, a 16% decline during that period. However, it was observed that the amount of imported foods were rising at the same time that the rate of agricultural self-sufficiency fell from 48% to 37%. (MAFF, 2022). It can be claimed that Japan reduced its domestic emissions during this time while increasing its agricultural output and international emissions. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) desires to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050 and a rise in the agricultural self-sufficiency rate to 45% in 2030 (MAFF, 2022). The recent spike in food price inflation has drawn further public attention to the country’s heavy reliance on imported goods. Japan must fundamentally rethink its food policy if it is to simultaneously become carbon neutral and boost its efficiency rate.

The main agricultural source of greenhouse gas emissions in Japan is rice production. According to Climate Trace (2021), enteric fermentation (5.94M, 22.2%), manure management (2.18M, 8.2%), and rice farming together account for 56.2% of the agricultural emissions in Japan. According to the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report for 2022, rice production’s CH4 emissions decreased by 0.8% from 12.1 million tonnes in 1990 to 12.0 million tonnes in 2020. The rice production area declined from 2,058 kha to 1,575 kha (-30.7%) within the same period, while the volume decreased from 10.5 kha to 7.6 kha (-38.1%) (Kubota, 2022a). The production area had been cut back, but the emissions were still not significantly lower. The National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report (2022) also demonstrates that the CO2e emissions from enteric fermentation of seven different cattle types decreased from 9.4 million to 7.4 million tonnes in 2020 (-27%) and that of manure management fell from 7.5 million to 6.2 million tonnes (-21%). The number of livestock declined from 4,873 to 3,961 (-23%), within the same period. The analysis presented above shows that the long-term trend of declining emissions is strongly correlated with declining agricultural resources and production volume.

Even while Japan’s agricultural sector emissions occasionally indicate a tendency toward reduction, this is frequently largely due to the long-term loss of the sector’s capacity or capabilities. After the war, Japan was lacking in both land area and youthful human resources. Hirofumi Uzawa, a well-known economist who lived from 1928 to 2014, believed that Japan used policies and subsidiary aids in both the agricultural and industrial sectors to shift its land and human resources to the industrial sectors, achieving Japan’s high economic growth (Uzawa, 2000). According to Kubota (2022-b), between 1955 and 2015, the population of the agricultural industry decreased from 36 million to 4.9 million while Japan’s GDP climbed from 8.3 billion to 538,032 billion Japanese Yen (Cabinet Office, 2023). However, as Uzawa (2000) argued, the values from industries and agriculture should not be compared in the same formula. Japan needs to reconsider the importance of the agriculture sector, including the shift of its resources such as highly educated and outstanding young human resources to the sector for innovation toward the fundamental shift and the development of a sustainable society.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Japan Country Manager Kazuya Takeda



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