National

Japan aims to reduce greenhouse emissions to zero in second half of 21st century

Kyodo

The Cabinet approved a plan Tuesday to reduce greenhouse emissions to zero in the second half of the 21st century as part of its strategy to fight climate change.

Renewable energy such as solar and wind will be the mainstay of the nation’s energy mix to achieve the goal, although coal-fired power plants will remain operational — a policy criticized by some energy experts as being insufficient to significantly cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Japan plans to present the strategy to the United Nations by late June, when it hosts the Group of 20 summit, as required under the Paris climate agreement.

The 2015 accord aims to keep the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Japan and Italy are the only nations among the Group of Seven countries that have yet to present a strategy.

“Action against climate change is not a cost to the economy but a growth strategy toward the future,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday.

“We will create a virtuous cycle and lead the paradigm shift of the world’s climate policy.”

The strategy will also rely on nuclear power generation, even as concerns remain about the safety of such plants after the 2011 Fukushima crisis. It calls for greater use of hydrogen to reduce dependency on nuclear power to the “lowest use possible” and the development of advanced technology to improve power generation efficiency.

A draft plan at a panel tasked with compiling the strategy urged the scrapping of all coal-fired plants in the long term. But the idea was dropped after meeting strong opposition from certain panel members from the business sector, drawing criticism from some environmental organizations.

Under the long-term energy plan, the government aims to have renewables account for 22 to 24 percent, fossil fuels 56 percent and nuclear power 20 to 22 percent of the country’s electricity generation in 2030.