• Kyodo, JIJI

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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga plans to pledge a cut in greenhouse-gas emissions in Japan to net zero by 2050 in his first policy speech in the Diet next week, government sources said Wednesday.

It will be the first time a Japanese prime minister has presented a specific timeline for realizing a carbon-free society.

Amid mounting concerns on climate change around the globe where abnormal weather conditions associated with natural disasters have been frequently observed recently, a number of economies including the European Union have already set the same goal.

Suga is expected to announce the net zero emissions target in his first general policy address to the Diet on Monday. It will be Suga's first policy speech since he took office last month to succeed Shinzo Abe. The speech will be given on the first day of the Diet session.

In June last year, the government adopted at a Cabinet meeting a long-term strategy for achieving the Paris accord targets. The strategy included becoming a decarbonized society not dependent on fossil fuels and becoming carbon neutral at the earliest possible date in the second half of the 21st century, but it did not mention any specific timing for achieving the goal.

Japan has often drawn criticism over its reliance on coal-fired power plants, which are significant contributors to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

The new emissions target is also likely to affect the process of renewing the country's strategic energy plan.

The current emissions reduction goal was adopted in 2015 in accordance with the Paris climate accord, a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The Paris accord aims to keep the increase in global temperatures to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels, preferably to 1.5 C.

Other than the European Union, the U.K. also aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. In his address to the U.N. general assembly last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing, the world's largest carbon emitter, aims to go carbon neutral by 2060.

Carbon neutrality means there is no more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere than the amount absorbed in forests.

In a news conference in Indonesia on Wednesday, Suga said he will explain in his coming policy speech his thoughts on the post-coronavirus world, including the creation of a "green society." His administration is expected to face the challenge of devising concrete measures for achieving the carbon neutrality goal, such as changing the industrial structure and reviewing people's daily lives.

Also in his policy speech, Suga plans to reiterate that his Cabinet was launched to work for the people, once again expressing its basic stance to promote regulatory reforms by breaking away from vertically segmented administrative systems, vested interests and a policy of sticking to precedents, the officials said.

Specifically, the prime minister will pledge to launch an agency in charge of digital transformation, lower mobile phone charges and push for public health insurance coverage for fertility treatment.

He will also seek to strike a balance between responses to the coronavirus crisis and efforts to achieve an economic recovery. Next year's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and the government's determination to resolve the issue of Japanese citizens abducted to North Korea decades ago will be mentioned in Suga's speech as well, according to the officials.

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