Prime Minister Suga promised a fundamental shift in the use of fossil fuels.
After assuming the role of Japan’s Prime Minister from Shinzo Abe last month, Yoshihide Suga held his very first policy meeting with Japan’s parliament. For his first meeting, Prime Minister Suga has made a bold declaration: Japan will be zero emission and carbon neutral by the year 2050.
“Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth,” Suga said. “We need to change our thinking to the view that taking assertive measures against climate change will lead to changes in industrial structure and the economy that will bring about great growth.”
As the world’s third-largest economy, Japan has a decisive say in the planet’s economic progress. Previously, the country was only shooting for 80% carbon neutrality by 2050, but after the European Union and China announced their intent for 100% neutrality by 2050 and 2060, respectively, it seems Japan has decided to follow suit. A hypothetical switch to green power in Japan would be a boon to the state of the global climate, as Japan is the fifth-largest producer of carbon emissions out of all established countries. These emissions have been a major sticking point for global environmental groups that have criticized Japan for both using and continuing to build coal-burning power plants.
Prime Minister Suga stressed that the linchpin to these efforts will be a greater focus on innovation, including efforts to develop more efficient solar cells, carbon recycling, and lessened restrictions on green power research and development. According to those who were present for the speech, Suga seemed quite serious about the matter.
“It’s pretty powerful,” said Takashi Hongo, senior fellow at Mitsui Global Strategic Studies Institute. “He was emphasizing a fundamental shift, and that indicates how strongly he feels about the change that needs to be made.”
“If Japan and the rest of the world are to avoid the catastrophic effects of the climate crisis, it is precisely this kind of action that the world needs,” said Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, though he also added that upcoming changes to the country’s energy plans will need to reflect the shift.