U.S. climate envoy John Kerry arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday — just two months before a key U.N. summit — for talks with Japanese leaders on their decarbonization efforts at home and the fight against climate change on the international stage.

Kerry’s stop in Tokyo, as well as another in China’s Tianjin later in the week, is part of a larger worldwide effort by the U.S. to push other nations to adopt strong decarbonization targets at the U.N. meeting in Glasgow, Scotland.

The purpose of his visit was “to engage with international counterparts on efforts to address the climate crisis,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

At the U.N. climate conference, slated to take place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, countries are being asked to present ambitious 2030 greenhouse gas reduction targets as part of a larger goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as was agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Making his first visit to Japan since his appointment in January, Kerry met with Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi on Tuesday afternoon.

In opening remarks, Kerry told Koizumi that the world has clear evidence of climate change’s impact, and that all countries must create policies to mitigate the negative effects of global warming, Kyodo News reported.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga meets with U.S. climate envoy John Kerry in Tokyo on Tuesday. | POOL / VIA AFP-JIJI
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga meets with U.S. climate envoy John Kerry in Tokyo on Tuesday. | POOL / VIA AFP-JIJI

During a 50-minute meeting between Kerry and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi on Tuesday morning, the latter touched on Japan’s 2030 target, saying the key to realizing it would be technological innovation.

According to the Foreign Ministry, both sides agreed on the importance of cooperating to reduce emissions in developing countries, including major emitters, under the Japan-U.S. Climate Partnership and the “Quad,” a security-focused group comprising Japan, the U.S., Australia and India.

Kerry will be in China from Wednesday through Friday for talks with his counterpart Xie Zhenhua on Beijing’s decarbonization strategy. China has set a goal of carbon neutrality by 2060 and promised to enhance its ambition on curbing climate change.

A May report by the U.S.-based Rhodium Group consulting firm showed China accounted for more than 27% of global emissions in 2019, while the U.S. was the world’s second-highest emitter at 11%. Japan accounted for 2.2% of global emissions.

Kerry, who attended the 1997 Kyoto Protocol summit, has long had a deep interest in climate change issues. During his Tokyo visit, he also met with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and economy minister Hiroshi Kajiyama.

Japan is committed to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 46% compared with 2013 levels, up from an earlier target of 26%, and has pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Climate groups, however, say that this is insufficient to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi in Tokyo on Tuesday | POOL / VIA KYODO
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi in Tokyo on Tuesday | POOL / VIA KYODO

Climate Action Tracker, an independent organization that analyzes decarbonization pledges, has concluded that, based on 2013 levels, Japan would need to reduce its emissions by 62% in order to meet the 1.5 degree Celsius target. Based on that estimate, Kiko Network, a climate group in Japan, has called for the government to raise its decarbonization target to 60% or more.

To help lower emissions, the industry ministry’s basic energy draft, announced in July, calls for the share of renewable energy to account for between 36% and 38% of the nation’s electricity supply by 2030, up from the current 22%-24% target.

Despite growing domestic and international calls to abandon coal power, Japan will continue to operate such plants. It plans to adopt carbon capture and storage technologies to curb their emissions.

The 2030 energy plan calls for coal to account for 19% of electricity, down from 26% in the previous plan. A dozen countries, including Germany, France, Canada, the United Kingdom and Canada — but not the U.S. — have pledged to phase out coal by 2030.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.