It’s like shooting for the stars. That’s how energy experts describe PM Suga’s pledge for Japan to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2050, writes Osamu Tsukimori. In short, many are not sure if it is an achievable goal for Japan.

The country lacks suitable geography for building many solar and wind farms, and the power sector is just one area in which carbon emissions need to be slashed. Energy analyst Akira Ishii says the costs for realizing a carbon-free society would be so prohibitive, if not impossible, that it would dent economic growth and significantly lower people’s standards of living.

“Considering a range of options such as nuclear, renewable and hydropower, decarbonizing the power sector might be achieved relatively easily,” Ishii says. “But what’s more difficult is to achieve carbon neutrality in the remaining 75% of areas that do not use electricity.”

Can Japan become a net-zero emitter by 2050? | BLOOMBERG MARKETS AND FINANCE
Can Japan become a net-zero emitter by 2050? | BLOOMBERG MARKETS AND FINANCE

Business and government are starting to wake up to the challenges ahead. Japan’s largest airline, ANA, has signed up for jet fuel made from renewable fuel from Singapore in a small step toward more environmentally friendly travel. However, the plan will also add to costs for an industry already crushed by the coronavirus.

The government is also considering scaling back a tax break for clean diesel cars, which have better fuel efficiency than normal diesel vehicles but still emit CO2. Clean diesel cars currently enjoy the same level of preferential tax treatment as electric, fuel cell, plug-in hybrid and natural gas-powered vehicles.

The Environment Ministry also began its annual “Warm Biz” energy-saving campaign last week, encouraging people to take environmentally friendly steps to beat the cold. Starting from next year, the government will no longer set dates for when to run Warm Biz, leaving companies and individuals to decide.