Japan’s Most Significant Climate Policies and Programs in 2023

The Basic Policy for the Realization of GX

In 2023, Japan stands at a defining moment in its approach to climate policy, facing significant challenges and criticism that highlight a pressing need for structural change. The Basic Policy for the Realization of GX (Green Transformation), introduced by the Japanese government as a new decarbonization strategy, has instead brought into sharp focus the nation’s reluctance to depart from long-standing economic and energy paradigms.

For decades, particularly following the burst of its economic bubble, Japan has primarily favored stability and incremental improvements over radical change. While fostering a sense of continuity, this approach has led to a stagnation in innovation and adaptability. The GX Basic Policy encapsulates this status quo mentality. Its emphasis on energy security, rather than on ambitious decarbonization, reflects a broader reluctance to embrace the sweeping changes necessary to address the global climate crisis effectively.

Japan continues to invest in fossil fuels. The phrases “fading out inefficient coal-fired power” and “switching to cleaner natural gas” mean it still plans to build new coal-fired power plants. Ongoing investments in fossil fuels and LNG starkly contrast Japan’s commitments to achieve predominantly decarbonized electricity. As the only G7 nation not committing to a deadline for phasing out coal, Japan’s stance places it at odds with the global trajectory toward climate change mitigation.

The GX policy focuses on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies and ammonia and hydrogen technologies in the power sector. This highlights a hesitancy to move away from traditional energy sources right now. However, these technologies are not yet expected to produce significant short-term benefits, illustrating a reluctance to commit fully to more effective and sustainable renewable energy solutions.

Despite these shortcomings, Japan has made some progress. The introduction of new emission reduction targets in key sectors, updated building standards for energy efficiency, and the mandate for rooftop solar panels in Tokyo from 2025 are steps in the right direction. However, while these measures are important, they are expected to have more of a long-term impact than an immediate impact on Japan’s emissions levels. After all, this indicates how this country excels at continuous improvement “Kaizen” rather than transformation.

The gap between Japan’s climate ambitions and the reality of its policy implementations calls for a thorough reevaluation of its approach. Japan urgently needs to overhaul its economic and business systems to align more closely with the rapidly evolving global standards of sustainable development. As the world increasingly moves towards sustainable models, Japan’s ability to adapt and innovate will be crucial in determining its future role in the global climate landscape. The nation’s historical inclination towards caution and gradualism must give way to a more proactive, bold approach that embraces the possibilities of renewable energy and technological innovation. How Japan navigates this challenge will define its contribution to the global fight against climate change and shape its economic future and legacy in the international community.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Japan Country Manager Kazuya Takada.

Learn More Sources:

  • Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (2023). GX 実現に向けた基本方針~今後 10 年を見据えたロードマップ~(The Basic Policy for GX Realization – Roadmap for the next 10 years). https://www.meti.go.jp/press/2022/02/20230210002/20230210002_1.pdf
  • Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (2023). GX 実現に向けた基本方針: 参考資料(The Basic Policy for GX Realization – Appendix). https://www.meti.go.jp/press/2022/02/20230210002/20230210002_3.pdf.

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