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Climate protest in Tokyo in November 2019. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan's new prime minister said on Monday the nation will seek to become carbon neutral by 2050, a move that will require huge changes in its fossil fuel-heavy energy mix in order to succeed.

Why it matters: Japan is the world's fifth-largest source of carbon emissions. The new goal announced by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is stronger than the country's previous target of becoming carbon neutral as early as possible in the latter half of the century.

Data: IEA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Driving the news: “Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth,” the prime minister told the nation's parliament Monday, per the Washington Post.

  • “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.”

The big picture: A growing number of countries are making pledges consistent with what scientists say is needed to meet the Paris climate deal's goals for limiting the amount of temperature rise.

  • Japan's pledge comes a month after China — by far the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter — vowed to be carbon neutral by 2060.
  • European Union officials are working to put meat on the bones of their promise to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Joe Biden's platform calls for having the U.S., the second-largest emitter after China, achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 as well.

Yes, but: These long-term pledges will require massive policy shifts — plans that for now are often just vaguely articulated — to transform them into steep emissions cuts.

  • Helen Mountford of the World Resources Institute applauded Suga's pledge, but added, "In order for Japan to demonstrate it takes this net-zero pledge seriously, the country must also set a much bolder emissions reduction target for 2030 than the surprisingly weak plan it put forward earlier this year."
  • And the New York Times points out that Japan is currently still investing in coal-fired power. Per the Times, Japan has "planned or is in the process of building 17 new coal-burning power plants."

What's next, via Bloomberg: "Concrete goals to promote hydrogen, battery storage, carbon recycling and wind power will be identified in a report released by the end of the year, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Hiroshi Kajiyama told reporters Monday."

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

General Motors puts Trump in its rearview mirror

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

General Motors (GM) is racing to prepare itself for a president and a world that takes climate change more seriously — and putting the Trump era behind them in the process.

Driving the news: GM yesterday announced an ambitious plan to end global sales of internal combustion vehicles by 2035. It's part of their wider new pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Updated 2 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."