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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
Nov 25, 2020 - Energy & Environment

A power giant's $190 billion push for cleaner future

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Enel Group, the Italy-based global power giant, is planning to spend $190 billion over the next decade in a push that includes a huge expansion of renewables and wider clean-energy infrastructure and business lines.

By the numbers: The company, already a big renewables player, said Tuesday that it's devoting $83 billion toward plans to grow its installed renewables capacity to 120 gigawatts by 2030, up from about 45 GW now.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 24, 2020 - Energy & Environment

The oil sector's new methane pledge

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Dozens of oil-and-gas companies — including the big ones like BP, Shell and Total — are pledging to provide more detailed information about their methane emissions.

Why it matters: Methane is a very strong planet-warming gas and atmospheric concentrations keep rising, as new World Meteorological Organization data shows. Releases or leaks from oil-and-gas well sites, pipeline and other infrastructure are a key source.

4 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.