Today, the Japanese government submits its long-term strategy to the United Nations.
While the Japanese government’s long-term commitment to decarbonization is a step in the right direction, the urgency of climate charge calls for higher ambition. On May 16, 2019, over 200 leading Japanese companies and cities that represent the Japan Climate Initiative (hereinafter referred to as “JCI”) issued a statement entitled, “Japan needs an ambitious long-term strategy to show Japan’s decarbonization leadership to the world” in response to the draft long-term strategy of the Japanese government announced on April 23, 2019. JCI submitted its input to the government as a public comment, with the support of 212 JCI signatories (144 companies, 26 municipalities, 42 organizations), the first such unified statement across stakeholders in response to a governmental plan in Japan.
The statement called for Japan to lay out a bold vision for decarbonization of Japanese society in line with the Paris Agreement and the latest results of the 1.5 C Special Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), backed by concrete measures. JCI stated that, “in the Japanese context, the most important set of measures for the realization of a decarbonized society is to promote energy efficiency in a comprehensive manner and maximize the use of renewable energy.” The message also specifically called for raising Japan’s energy renewable target, given that, “it is key to significantly reduce reliance on fossil fuels such as coal in the years ahead.”
However, the finalized “long-term strategy” did not incorporate these comments. The final strategy did not specify a target to increase the use of renewable energy. As a result, the target is still low – in fact, it is half of those in other advanced countries – and includes a policy to continue Japan’s reliance on coal despite the criticism from international society. Furthermore, the strategy keeps the emission reduction target by 2050 still at 80% and does not indicate a clear deadline by which Japan expects to achieve decarbonization (noting that it plans to go carbon-neutral “soon after 2050”).
Reacting to the lack of real ambition proposed by the Japanese Government’s Long-Term Strategy, Takejiro Sueyoshi, the representative of JCI and a special advisor to the UNEP Finance Initiative for the Asia Pacific Region, said, “France, Germany and the United Kingdom have committed to the target of net zero by 2050, while the rapidly worsening impacts of climate change urges the world to raise their targets in line with the guardrail of 1.5°C. There are growing voices that climate change is now in a state of emergency.” Mr. Sueyoshi further stated that, “the measures described in the long-term strategy lack a sense of crisis and urgency, with many of them maintaining the status quo or extending the old policy. The strategy puts emphasis on “non-continuous technology innovation” that no one has foreseen when it will be realized, although the coming decade is critically important to address climate change. It cannot be helped that the strategy is criticized for putting the problem off. “
If Japan is to take a leadership role in global decarbonization, the Japanese government needs to increase the renewable target significantly, set a firm timeline to phase-out coal and commit to achieving decarbonization by 2050.
Mr. Sueyoshi further stated: “The national long-term strategy and the accompanying national policies need to recognize and build upon the pioneering efforts by Japanese companies, sub-national governments, civil society organizations, and other actors that have taken concrete measures to reduce their carbon footprint, and to make easier for these actors to be more ambitious so that, together, we can build a Japanese decarbonized society.”
“By showing such a positive attitude, Japan can build a credible position that is suitable for the G20 Presidency—an opportunity only once in 20 years. Whether it fades away with the passage of time or leaves its name in history as a turning point for winning the fight against climate change—Japan now stands at the crossroads between the two options. “
Japan is the host of the G20 held in Osaka from June 28-29, 2019. JCI urges the Japanese government to recognize that actors in the real economy of Japan are already stepping up on climate action, and show its genuine leadership to the world. JCI also strongly expects that the government work together with Japanese non state actors to deliver the vision of a decarbonized Japanese society by 2050.
The JCI is a multi-stakeholder coalition representing large companies, small and medium-sized enterprises, national and local governments, universities and research institutes, consumer groups, religious groups, NPOs/NGOs, etc. The coalition is made up of actors that are leading by example. For instance, JCI includes 42 companies including Sony and Ricoh out of 78 Japanese companies that have committed to a Science Based Target (SBT) —i.e., targets adopted to reduce a company’s greenhouse gas emissions in line with science to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. In addition, JCI includes 13 companies including AEON, FUJIFILM Holdings, Sekisui House out of 19 Japanese companies that have signed on to RE100—a commitment to source 100 percent renewable electricity globally, by 2050 at the latest. Major Japanese cities like Tokyo and Kyoto city have committed to decarbonization of their emissions by 2050.
The JCI is a part of the Alliances for Climate Action (ACA), a growing global network of domestic multi-stakeholder coalitions in Argentina, Japan, Mexico, and the United States. The coalitions are committed to supporting the delivery and enhancement of their countries’ climate goals. ACA connects cities, states, the private sector, investors, universities and civil society at the domestic level to work with each other and with their national governments to drive climate action. The ACA is supported by seven global partners including the C40 Climate Leadership group, CDP, Climate Action Network, Fundación AVINA, The Climate Group, the We Mean Business Coalition, and WWF.