Japan sets carbon-neutral goal as UK plans climate laws

Tokyo, Jun 12 (AFP):
Japan has joined Britain in pledging to become carbon neutral later this century, as the world races to prevent catastrophic climate change, but critics blasted Tokyo’s plan as unambitious.
While Britain on Wednesday outlined plans for fast-track legislation that would reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, Japan’s policy only pledges to meet the goal sometime after the middle of the century.
Both countries are among the nearly 200 nations that have signed up to the Paris climate agreement, which commits signatories to efforts to cap global warming at “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).
Japan’s policy, adopted by the cabinet is expected to be submitted to the United Nations before the country hosts the G20 summit in Osaka later this month. It sets “a carbon-neutral society as the final goal, and seeks to realise it at the earliest possible time in the latter half of this century.” But while it says renewable energy — such as solar and wind — will become the mainstay of the country’s energy use, it adds that coal-fired power plants will remain operational.
Climate activists say Tokyo is moving too slowly and its continued use of coal undermines its objectives. The plan “shows the Japanese government is not truly serious about mitigating climate change,” said Hanna Hakko, senior energy campaigner for Greenpeace Japan. “This is especially clear in the fact that there is no indication or timeline about phasing out coal.” “You simply can’t solve climate change while continuing to burn coal,” she said. The move comes before environment ministers from the Group of 20 meet in central Japan this weekend, and as Tokyo looks to position itself as a leader on climate efforts and reducing marine plastic waste.
The policy says Japan will keep a 2016 pledge to reduce greenhouse gas by 80 percent by 2050 from around 2010 levels and seeks to make renewable energy a major source of electricity. It aims to reduce reliance on nuclear energy while also tackling the “reduction of CO2 emissions from thermal power generation” fired by fossil fuels like coal.
Expansion of renewable energy is key in the plan, “but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t use thermal power at all,” environment ministry official Jun Sato told AFP.
Japan believes with technological breakthroughs “we will make efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from thermal power plants,” he said, for example by collecting CO2.
Carbon capture technologies remain largely untested, and some climate activists warn that a reliance on the development of future technologies to mitigate emissions will lead to countries failing to meet their Paris deal targets.

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