New Business Lobby Pushes Japan Decarbonization
Japan Has Chance to Get Serious About Climate Change
In October of last year, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that Japan was shifting course. The country—which in 2020 came in a miserable 45th out of 61 countries in addressing climate change—would now commit itself to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a goal the country had once hoped to achieve sometime between 2050 and 2100.
That Tokyo’s record on climate change has been so dismal might surprise observers who associate Japan with technological innovation. But almost a third of the country’s electricity derives from coal—the single largest contributor to anthropogenic climate change. Worse yet, Japan is currently constructing 15 new coal-fired plants and is planning another seven, all to be finished within the next five years. Its carbon tax is a mere $3 per ton of carbon dioxide, compared with $33 in France and $126 in Sweden. That makes Suga’s new stance a significant reversal for Japan.
Now what Suga has stepped down, will Japan stay serious to just mutter pious promises? One of the new, positive factors is a business lobby pushing for serious action. It’s called the Japan Climate Initiative (JCI) and it includes around 400 of Japan’s leading companies. Late last year, four of its members, SONY, Kao (household goods producer), Nissay Asset Management, and Ricoh Office machines met with Taro Kono, at the time Minister for Environmental Reform, an ardent proponent of vigrous action of climate change, and later a contender to succeed Suga. SONY told Kono that, unless Japan upped its renewables-based electricity generation to 40% or more by 2030, SONY and other companies could be forced by its customers to shift much production offshore. That’s because companies like Apple will eliminate by 2030 suppliers who don’t use 100% renewable electricity. SONY’s facilities in Europe can meet this demand, but not those in Japan.