Feeling the heat: external pressure and Japan’s commitment to carbon neutrality
Earth Day in 2021 marked a US return to the Paris Agreement by President Joe Biden’s administration, soon after his inauguration in January 2021
The return signals a reversal of the climate policies of his predecessor, Donald Trump, who showed little interest in climate change until 2020. Biden also announced that the United States would be hosting a digital climate change summit — The Leaders Summit on Climate — on Earth Day and called on world leaders to attend. The administration announced that it would set stricter greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for the year 2030 in the lead up to the Summit and urged other countries to do the same.
For years, Japan has been reluctant to set significant emission reduction targets, arguing that it has already achieved the highest possible level of energy efficiency and that any activities to further reduce emissions would burden the economy.
Japan’s first emission reduction target for 2030 — set in July 2015 — was to reduce emissions by 26 per cent by 2030 compared to 2013 levels. The 2013 base year was chosen because it was when Japan recorded its highest emissions since 1990. Choosing a high emissions base year set a low bar but allowed Japan to aim for a reduction percentage comparable to more ambitious other countries.
The Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 set the long-term goal of holding the rise in global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius and pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. A report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2018 stated that global emissions needed to be reduced to net zero by 2050 to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels. Net zero means that all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions must be absorbed by natural ecosystems or other technological means.
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