Map out specific steps to achieve greenhouse gas reduction targets

p>It is a welcoming move that world leaders have shared an understanding of the threat of climate change. The question now is what actions will be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At the online climate change summit talks hosted by the United States, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga expressed a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 46% by fiscal 2030 compared to fiscal 2013. This is a significant increase from the previous target of 26%.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced a new target of a 50% to 52% reduction in emissions in 2030 compared to 2005 levels. It is significant that the United States now leads the world on the issue of climate change, reversing the stance of the previous administration of President Donald Trump, which withdrew from the Paris Agreement, an international framework for combating global warming.

It is desirable to further accelerate the trend of international cooperation.

President Xi Jinping of China, the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide, has said that China’s carbon dioxide emissions will start to decline by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2060, but he did not present a new goal.

In order to curb global warming, it is essential that China, which accounts for 30% of the world’s emissions, reduces its emissions. It is important for Japan, the United States and Europe to urge China to make an effort.

The Paris Agreement, which came into effect in 2016, is a framework in which about 190 countries and regions voluntarily set their own reduction targets. Japan, the United States and Europe have pledged to reduce their emissions to net zero by 2050, and the goals for 2030 are regarded as intermediate targets.

After the new targets are set, each country is expected to submit its own reduction plan to the United Nations for each sector, including industry and households. Feasible roadmaps must be presented as soon as possible.

Japan has set a target of a 46% reduction, but the government has not clarified the rationale for this, including the energy mix which would be a foundation for achieving the goal. In the six-year period to fiscal 2019, Japan reduced emissions by 14%, meaning emissions equivalent to the remaining 32% required to meet the target will have to be eliminated by fiscal 2030.

The prime minister explained that the government will take bold measures, focusing on the use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power and energy-saving steps.

As for solar power generation, it is said that suitable sites are limited in Japan, where there is little flat land. It is necessary to devise ways to effectively use the roofs of such buildings as houses, factories and public facilities.

Offshore wind power, in which the government holds hopes, is said to take about eight years to start operations due to such factors as procedures to assess the environmental impact. It is necessary to consider deregulation to enable the swift start of operations.

There are only nine years left until fiscal 2030. Technological innovations such as the use of hydrogen and the recovery and storage of carbon dioxide are hard to rely on. Nuclear power, which does not emit carbon dioxide, is a viable option. The government should strongly encourage the restart of nuclear power reactors once their safety has been confirmed.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on April 24, 2021.