Japan's new prime minister has pledged that his country will be carbon neutral by 2050, which will require major changes in energy policy. Delivering his first political speech at the new session of the Seimas, Yoshihide Suga said that the transition to ecology will be a source of growth, not a brake on the economy.
Japan has struggled to reduce its heavy reliance on fossil fuels since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“Here and now, I declare our goal - to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions in general by 2050, or, in other words, to achieve zero carbon emissions by the same year,” the Prime Minister said. “Aggressive measures to combat climate change can change our industrial structure and economic society. We need to change our mindset to see [carbon reduction] as a big source of growth. ”
In 2010, Japan relied on fossil fuels for 81% of its primary energy supply, but by 2017 this figure had grown to 87%, as most of the country's nuclear reactors were shut down following the Fukushima accident.
The use of non-nuclear renewables has grown from 7% to 11% over the same period, but Japan continues to build coal-fired power plants that will emit carbon for decades.
Mr Suga said "next generation solar panels" and "carbon recycling" will be critical.
Separately, the Japanese prime minister reaffirmed several policies in his speech, including plans to cover fertility treatments with health insurance, lower mobile phone prices, and create a government digital policy agency.
He said that the top foreign policy priority of the government remains the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Mr. Suga said he is ready to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un without preconditions, renewing the policy set by his predecessor Shinzo Abe.