Japan Checkup

Japan—Falling Behind

The Japanese Government submitted their INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Japan pledged to reduce greenhouse gases by 26 % below 2013 levels, by 2030. In order to achieve this promise, the Japanese Cabinet approved the Global Warming Countermeasure Plan on May 2016. However, Japan’s target level is much lower than that of the EU in terms of the reduction rate to its 1990 level. In the assessment by Climate Action Tracker, the Japanese reduction target was regarded as “Inadequate” and is not consistent with the Paris Agreement goal to keep global warming below 1.5 degree Celsius.

The most dominant factor influencing Japanese greenhouse gas emissions is electricity powered by fossil fuel. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan shut down all nuclear plants, which resulted in an increased use of fossil fuels for electricity generation. After Fukushima, the government’s focus on climate change has diminished, while there has been an increased policy focus on energy security and economic growth.

Ken Sofer, Senior Policy Advisor, Center for American Progress, observes that Japan’s national policy for climate change is prone to prioritize energy security and economic growth rather than climate change itself. What is important in climate change policy in Japan is to raise its priority in the political context. Recently, the Japanese Government has focused on raising salaries of working people and improving the standard of living. Climate change has been minimized as a policy priority. The government has yet to make the connection between investing in climate change mitigation and economic prosperity.

Learn More

Takashi Morimoto, 2016:  Global Agenda, No.128

Ken Sofer, 2016: Climate Politics in Japan, Sasakawa USA Forum Issue No. 1

Japan Emission Reduction Policy

Building Insulation Law

The government recently passed a new law to make all buildings more energy efficient by 2020. The thermal insulation regulation standard of Japan has been criticized as inferior to that of other developed countries. For example, it is often pointed out that the regulation standard for insulating windows is inadequate. The new law is intended to bring Japanese thermal insulation building standards in line with global standards. It will be implemented by a variety of regulatory agencies, including the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Ministry of Economy, Trade and industry, and the Ministry of Environment.

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Japan Extreme Weather Event

Typhoon # 10

The biggest natural disaster in Japan over the last three years was Typhoon No.10 in August 2016. It is known as Lionrock and is classified as a Category 4 typhoon. It severely damaged the Tohoku and Hokkaido regions in the northern part of Japan. According to AR5 produced by the IPCC, rising temperatures increase the risk of stronger typhoons. In the case of Typhoon No.10, 22 people were killed, 5 were missing, and 447 houses were completely destroyed. In addition, some levees were breached and cities were flooded. As a result, many potato farms in Hokkaido were damaged and companies producing chips decreased the amount of production.

The government announced the effects of this massive destruction and ministries have taken action. Japan is now making efforts to prevent a recurrence of typhoon-related damage by creating guidelines for its citizens on how to react to floods.

Japan Subnational Best Practices


Kyoto Prefecture—Kyoto Prefecture is where the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty was developed at The 3rd Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP3), serving as an effective means to promote global warming countermeasures. The treaty introduced trade emission allowances among advanced nations and emissions trading between advanced countries and developing countries. In October 2011, the Kyoto Prefecture Global Warming Countermeasures Ordinance was enacted, and it started the “Kyoto CO2 Emissions Trading System” in cooperation with the government, economic groups, environmental NPOs.

The system aims to create credits, called “credits unique to Kyoto: Kyo-VER” from energy-saving countermeasures at small and midsize corporations, forest maintenance work conducted by companies and NPOs, eco-activities by Kyoto residents, and local communities. It also promotes the reduction in total GHG emissions in the Kyoto Prefecture. Meanwhile, it minimizes the total cost to society by establishing a mechanism to enable businesses with large volumes of emissions to utilize credits to achieve targets of GHG gas emissions reduction plans based on Kyoto Prefecture and Kyoto City Global Warming Countermeasure Ordinances and to take advantage of them for carbon offsets, CSR activities, etc.

The system is also a platform that creates and utilizes diverse credits adapted to industrial structures and local characteristics of Kyoto including “credits unique to Kyoto”, supplementing the J-Credit Scheme and other emissions trading systems by different entities. A total of 145 cases or 5584.5t-CO2 credits have been created thus far, and they have been utilized to achieve corporate GHG emissions reduction targets and offsetting GHG gases emitted from the printing of printed matter. In 2014, it helped decrease its amount of CO2 by 15% from the reference year 1990.

Department of the Environment, Global warming Countermeasures Division
Telephone: 81 – 75 – 414 – 4830
Email: tikyu@pref.kyoto.lg.jp


Toyota City—Toyota City (Aichi Prefecture) is aiming to transform from an automotive city to one of the world’s leading eco-conscious cities. This is where everyone can live a comfortable life at his or her own pace in a low-carbon society while taking into account a reduction of wasteful consumption. To this end, the city has strived to encourage the spread of Smart Houses as a part of its initiatives.
Toyota City is the first city in Japan that introduced the Smart House Tax Break system. A discount of one-half of the municipal real-estate tax on buildings will be given to residents who build new Smart Houses which are fully equipped with solar power generation panels, home energy management systems (HEMS), and storage batteries, or who install these systems and devices in their current dwellings. In addition, the city provides special subsidies through the “Eco-Family Support Subsidy Program” to assist households with installing home solar power generation systems, home fuel battery systems, HEMS and home lithium-ion storage battery systems.

It also established “the Center for Renewable Energy in Toyota City”, which has encouraged citizens and companies to install facilities run by renewable energy. In addition, it held a “High Level Symposium regarding Sustainable Cities” associated with the United Nations in 2014 and is constructing a global network of innovative environmental cities.

Model Environment City Promotion Division, Planning Department
Telephone: +81 – 565 – 34 – 6982
Email: hybrid-city@city.toyota.aichi.jp

Yokohama—In 2010, Yokohama City was nominated as one of the ‘Next-generation Energy and Social Systems Demonstration Areas’ by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Since then, the city has been promoting the Yokohama Smart City Project (YSCP) demonstration projects. In cooperation with Japan’s 34 leading companies in the fields of energy, electronics, and construction businesses, Yokohama City has introduced a system to optimize the energy supply-demand balance in existing city areas with houses and commercial buildings. Through this project, the city had set target numbers for HEMS adoption, solar panels, and electric vehicles and achieved these targets by FY2013. From now on, the YSCP will be updated from the demonstration stage to the implementation stage. It was able to help decrease the amount of greenhouse gas by 2.8% from previous year, and by 5.9% from the reference year 2005.

Climate Change Policy Headquarters, Coordination Division
Telephone: +81 – 45 – 671 – 2661
Email: on-chosei@city.yokohama.jp

Japan Leaders and Opponents

Government Official
Koichi Yamamoto
Minister of the Environment

Mr Yamamoto’s Ministry is responsible for Japan’s environmental policies, including setting its emission targets.

Contact: https://www.env.go.jp/en/moemail/

Government Official
Hiroshige Seko
Minister of Economy Trade and Industry

Mr Skeo’s Ministry plays a key role in setting economic policy in Japan and plays a role in setting energy policy.

Contact: https://wwws.meti.go.jp/honsho/comment_form/contact_us.html

Climate Program Advocate
Takejiro Sueyosi
Special Advisor to United Nations Environmental Program

Mr Sueyosi plays a lead role in advising on international finance policy related to climate change.

Contact information available upon request.

Climate Program Opponent
Chairman of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation)

Keidanren is the largest business industry association in Japan and often takes positions in support of non-renewable energy.

Contact: webmaster@keidanren.or.jp

Japan Leading Research Study

Research Study: Long-term Energy Supply and Demand Outlook, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (2015)

Japan’s Ministry of Trade and Industry (METI) developed the Long-Term Energy Supply and demand Outlook in response to its research on consumer attitudes towards energy issues. Such research revealed widespread opposition to the continued use of nuclear power as Japan’s main energy source. METI’s “Long-Term Energy Supply and Demand Outlook” set forth a range of basic principles to guide the future use of energy in Japan. Some of these principles include the following:

  • In response to public concern about the safety of nuclear power and other energy sources, efforts will be made to voluntarily improve safety, and maintain technologies and human resources necessary to provide for the safety of all energy resources
  • Japan will adopt an emission reductions target comparable to the EU and the U.S. and lead the world
  • Japan’s energy self-sufficiency rate will improve by 24.3%; and CO2 emissions from energy sources will be 21.9% lower than the total GHG emissions in FY 2013
  • The basic principle for the power supply-demand structure is to lower dependency on nuclear power generation to the extent possible through energy efficiency and conservation and the introduction of renewable energy.

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Long-term Energy Supply and Demand Outlook, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (2015) http://www.meti.go.jp/english/press/2015/0716_01.html

Japan Emissions Reduction Policy

Japan: The Tokyo Cap and Trade System

Tokyo, the capital of Japan and one of the world’s largest cities, emits a total 59.6 million tons of greenhouse gas per year. Tokyo’s Cap-and-Trade has been implemented since April in 2010 as Japan’s first cap-and-trade emissions trading program. The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly approved the bill that introduced mandatory targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction based on Tokyo Climate Change Strategy in June 2007.  The program was modeled after the Emission Trading System (ETS) of the European Union (EU) and was put in place in April 2010. What should be noted is that Tokyo Cap-and Trade was the first cap-and-trade program to be implemented not only for Japan but also for Asia as a whole. According to a flash report published by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in 2015, Tokyo Cap-and-Trade has achieved a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to base-year emissions, which is the largest reduction rate in the past 5 years. Tokyo Cap-and-Trade requires 8% greenhouse gas emission reductions in business facilities such as office buildings, and 6% emission reductions in industrial facilities such as factories during a five-year compliance period (2010-2014). Also, it requires owners of these facilities to submit a report of the precious year’s emission. The best news is that over 90% of targeted facilities have achieved their reduction targets. Tokyo Cap-and-Trade was highlighted as an exemplary program by UNFCCC in 2014, which indicates that the program is receiving attention all around the world. Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly recently set a new reduction target (cap), “30% reduction from the 2000 level by 2030”.

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Japan Energy Production Trends

How The Energy System Is Structured

The key points of the current energy policy of the Japanese government are:

  • to locate nuclear power on important base-load power sources, by introducing the government’s new regulations, which are stronger than before
  • to increase the renewable energies
  • to promote technological development like low-carbon emission power plants

The basic viewpoint of the energy policy is “3E+S,” which means Energy Security, Economic Efficiency, Environment, and Safety. Considering this viewpoint as a premise, the Japanese energy policy calls for the government to develop a  “Basic Energy Plan” (BEP). The government is asked to formulate a Basic Energy Plan at least once every three years, and based on an evaluation of the effects of measures concerning energy, to make changes to the plan if necessary. (Basic Act on Energy Policy)

Japan’s Ministry of Energy Trade and Industry (METI) published its fourth Basic Energy Plan in April 2014. In it, according to World Nuclear News, METI considered nuclear power to be a quasi-domestic source that gives stable power, operates inexpensively and has a low greenhouse gas profile. However, the ministry noted that it must be developed with safety as a priority and with constant work on preparedness for emergency.

A METI Report calls for nuclear energy to account for 20%-22% of power generation by 2030, with 22%-24% coming from renewable energy sources, while coal’s share will be reduced to 26%, LNG’s to 27%, and oil’s to just 3%.

Sources of Energy

According to World Nuclear News, a plan setting a share of 20% to 22% for nuclear power in Japan’s energy mix by 2030 has been approved by a consultative committee. While scaling back fossil fuel use, the plan also calls for an expansion of renewable energy sources.

The long-term energy supply and demand outlook subcommittee of the Advisory Committee on Energy and Natural Resources approved the draft report on 1 June. The report, by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), says that total energy demand in Japan will increase from 940 TWh in 2013 to 980.8 TWh in 2030. In 2013, LNG accounted for 43.2% of Japan’s power generation, with 30.3% coming from coal and 14.9% from oil. Nuclear accounted for just 1.7%, with the remainder coming from renewable sources, according to figures from the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF).


Japan looks to transform its energy mix by 2030 (Image: JAIF)

Leading Energy Production Companies

We interviewed J-POWER, a non-renewable energy company which emitted 0.51 million tons of CO2 in 2015. The spokesman said that this coal-fired power still plays an important role in the stability of energy supply in Japan. He also pointed out, in the recent low carbon movement, his company should contribute to CO2 emission reduction by strengthening the effort to diffuse its advanced technologies such as high efficiency coal-fired, hydroelectric, wind, and geothermal power plants. J-POWER is a member of “The Electric Power Council for a Low Carbon Society (ELCS)”, which is composed of 36 Japanese energy companies. In order to achieve the CO2 reduction target of ELCS, it follows the PDCA cycle and make efforts to reduce CO2 emission.

Also, we were able to interview a new Japanese renewable energy company, called SB energy. It started generating solar power and wind power in 2012 when FIT (Feed-in Tariff) policies were enforced. Its generation capacity is approximately 500 MW, which is expected to be our new option. The interviewee stated that although the business itself contributes to CO2 emission reduction, it has not adopted any rule to reduce CO2 emission. FIT considerably affected this company, he said. FIT was aimed to promote new entry of renewable energy companies by forcing electricity companies to purchase renewable energy at a certain price. Initially, there were fewer renewable energy companies compared to Western countries; however, FIT is changing this situation.

Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Kenta Matsumoto

Japan Emission Reduction Challenges

Leading Emission Reduction Challenges: (a) Dependence on fossil fuels as energy sources; (b) Changing peoples’ behavior


Current Greenhouse Gas Emission Levels

Total emissions in FY2014 were 1365 Mt CO2 eq, a 3.0 % decrease compared to those of FY2013; and a 7.5 % increase compared to FY1990. Total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increased 2.7% between 2011 and 2012and 1.3% between 2012 and 2013. With a long-term view, the emissions are slightly increasing.


Emission Reduction Challenges

After the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, Japan’s energy plan which had focused on nuclear power was reconsidered. Since all nuclear power plants had stopped just after the earthquake, fossil fuels have accounted for the most of the electricity supply. This switch from nuclear power to fossil fuels has steadily increased the carbon emissions in Japan. (The use of nuclear power is very controversial.)

The Basic Energy Plan (2014) describes nuclear power and fossil flues as “base-load power sources.”  The government’s aim of the share of electricity provided by renewable energy is only 22-24% in Long-term Energy Supply and Demand Outlook (2015), which may be insufficient to transform Japan to a low carbon society.

Because of very limited energy resources, Japan has relied on imported resources. After the Oil Crises, and in order to gain energy security, Japan has struggled to reduce its dependence on oil. In 2010, the ratios of oil power generation was less than 10% and those of coal, gas and nuclear are 25%~27% each. After the Fukushima accident, almost all of the nuclear power plant ware not in operation and about 90 % of power generation comes from fossil fuels.

The Japanese Government has developed mid and long-range plans for reducing its current dependence on fossil fuels. Between now and 2030 the plan focuses on the development of clean coal and LNG thermal power technologies, an area where Japan has a strong technological advantage. After 2030, the plan calls for a focus on carbon capture and storage and hydrogen technologies. The Government also will try to restore the confidence of its people in the safety of nuclear power plants.

Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Kenta Matsumoto


Useful Resources






Japan Ratification Status

The Paris Agreement, signed by the Government in New York in April, will be submitted to the Diet for its approval and ratification. Initially, the administration was planning to start the ratification process in 2017; however, influenced by the G7 Ise-Shima Summit, they currently aim to get the approval from the Diet by the end of this year.

In terms of climate change negotiation, Japan’s policymaking process is concentrated in the hands of the bureaucracy and the structural conservatism of the Japanese system. Environmental and energy policy in Japan is similarly concentrated in the hands of the bureaucracy, particularly the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), the Ministry of Environment (MOE), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). METI is responsible for deciding Japan’s energy mix and has the closest relationship with the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Keidanren (Japanese Business Federation, like U.S. Chamber of Commerce) has strong relationship with METI. As part of the bottom-up approach to the INDC process, METI sought Keidanren’s input on feasible emissions reduction efforts, particularly in terms of energy conservation and efficiency improvements.

The government approved the new Action Plan for Global Warming on 13 May, 2016. However because they have to maintain the improvement of Japan’s economy, they make the environmental less of a priority. For example, they continuously encourage efficient thermal power plants. Because they have to maintain the improvement Japan’s economy, they make the environmental matter less of a priority. It is presumed that they only encourage environmental actions that do not interrupt development of economy.

Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Kenta Matsumoto

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