Japan's new prime minister vows to stick with net zero emissions target

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Japan's new prime minister vows to stick with net zero emissions target

Prior lawmakers have risen under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, sparking concern that he will stray from the key administration's focus on renewables to help achieve net zero greenhouse gases emissions by 2050.

The Ministers in charge of Japan's efforts to address climate change and energy issues under the Kishia Administration have vowed to stick with the net zero target.

A retreat from the current policy line is out of the question, given the global trend of decarbonization, one senior environment ministry official said.

In October 2020, then Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga promised to achieve the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 amid fanfare.

He upped the ante in April by announcing that Japan will aim for a 46 % reduction in fiscal 2013 levels from 30 September 2030 in the run up to another session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Suga Administration also spelled out the principle of prioritizing renewable resources such as solar and wind power over all other energy sources in government programs.

What’s important is improving the existing policy and we will adhere to it, said Shinjiro Koizumi who replaced Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi as environment minister, commenting on net zero emissions and renewables-first targets at an Oct. 5 news conference.

But he also said he was willing to listen to feedback from the electric power industry.

Japan's major environmental and energy policies of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and decarbonizing electricity grids using more renewables were defined in the updated law to fight global warming, enacted this year, and the new version of the Basic Energy Plan, expected to get Cabinet approval this month.

The new Basic Energy Plan - written by the Suga Administration made no mention of such nuclear power-related projects despite pressure from pro-nuclear lawmakers within the LDP and the nuclear industry.

LDP lawmakers who support nuclear energy are unhappy about the Basic Energy Plan, which said Japan will reduce its dependence on nuclear energy as much as possible. Besides becoming Minister of Economy and Trade, Koichi Hagiuda has indicated that he will follow the current policy.

We will give top priority to the promotion of renewables and introduce them as much as possible, he said on Oct. 5. We do not envisage projects to build nuclear reactors or replace old ones with new ones. But concern have been raised over possible return to reliance on nuclear power by key lawmakers assuming leading positions in the government and ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Koizumi, who was an economist in charge of renewable energy, and Taro Kono, who served as Minister for administrative reform and is a staunch opponent of nuclear energy, were replaced when Kishida formed his cabinet.

Koizumi, who is concerned about continued reliance on renewable energy and a strong advocate of nuclear power, has said the pro-nuclear bloc could try to push back.

Speculating back would likely be possible, he said at a news conference Oct. 1.

Despite his vow against new reactor projects, Hagiuda is a close ally of former prime minister Shinzo Abe who serves as the most senior adviser to a group of legislators advocating construction of new reactors to replace older units.

Kishida, the second highest-ranking secretary-general of LDP, holds the second most powerful position after the party president, Akira Amari, and is the most powerful consultant to the group.

Sanae Takaichi, who proposed bolstering development of new technology to build a nuclear fusion reactor in the LDP leadership race last month landed the position of policy lbp leader.

With those lawmakers in influential posts, a government official said, The industry ministry and the LDP will likely exercise more clout in rolling back the energy policy. The nuclear industry not surprisingly hailed the government and the new party lineup.

Lawmakers who have shown understanding to the nuclear industry were appointed in many key positions, said a senior official with a leading power company.

Experts fear that the new administration will stall Japan's efforts to decarbonize its economy with renewables.

The Environment Ministry has called for the full-fledged introduction of tax reform for fiscal 2022 of the carbon pricing program which is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by businesses.

But the electric power industry and the Industry Ministry are cautious about making the move.

Kono spearheaded the initiative to ease regulations that stood in the way for the spread of renewable energy sources.

With no such driving force in the Cabinet of Kishida, it is unclear if regulations will be further relaxed to ramp up renewables.

Kishida apparently believes in Japan reliant on renewable energy sources as a dominant source of energy.

Are fossil fuels the only energy source of choice? During the recent race, he asked to elect the LDP president.