solar farm

A floating solar plant in Japan

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The Japanese government has said it will cut the country’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, in the latest sign of growing momentum on international climate action.

Yoshihide Suga, who was elected prime minister last month, said curbing emissions was no longer a brake on economic growth. “We need to change our mindset that proactively taking measures against global warming will bring about changes to industrial structures, as well as the economy and society, and lead to major growth,” he told Japan’s parliament.

The net zero move marks a strong shift in ambition by the world’s fifth biggest emitter, up from an existing target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, and brings it level with the UK and EU. Japan’s past pledges had been rated “highly insufficient” by climate analysts.

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The third largest economy in the world is heavily reliant on fossil fuels for its energy supplies, with electricity supplies overwhelmingly provided by coal and gas following the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011. However, solar power generation has grown rapidly in the past five years, and Suga mentioned “next generation” solar cells as one way to meet the country’s new goal.

The greater ambition is important not just domestically but because it injects further momentum into international efforts on meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

While the pandemic has led to the postponement of the major COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow to next year, recent weeks have seen China pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060, the EU taking steps to enshrine its 2050 net zero target in law, and the UK indicating it will produce a more ambitious climate plan on 12 December.

Alok Sharma, the UK minister presiding over COP26, said he was “delighted” by Suga’s announcement. Laurence Tubiana, the former French diplomat who helped forge the Paris deal, said she was “very pleased” but countries must now “deliver robust plans” to meet their goals.

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source: newscientist.com

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