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How Japan is accelerating efforts towards a carbon-neutral society

Japan aims to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Japan aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. Image: Unsplash/Tom Vining.

Naoko Kutty
Writer, Forum Agenda
Naoko Tochibayashi
Communications Lead, Japan, World Economic Forum
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • Japan is among a group of 136 countries that have pledged climate commitments to reach net zero by 2050.
  • Alongside the Japanese government's own climate policy measures, business efforts are also underway to reduce emissions.
  • Here's how stakeholders from different sectors are accelerating and scaling up action on climate change.

In the face of the climate crisis, 136 countries around the world have pledged to reach net zero by 2050. This includes Japan, which is on the path to carbon neutrality with an interim goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 46% compared to 2013 levels by 2030.

In June 2021, the Japanese government announced its Green Growth Strategy, which outlines the current status and challenges of 14 specified fields that are expected to grow. As part of this strategy, a Green Innovation Fund of $15 billion (around JPY 2 trillion) was created to assist ambitious green projects by companies and other organizations over the next decade, targeting areas essential to the circular economy, such as storage batteries, offshore wind power, next-generation solar cells, hydrogen, and carbon recycling.

In October 2021, the national plan for the Global Warming Countermeasures was updated for the first time in five years, and concrete efforts are now underway to achieve both industrial structural reform and economic growth.

Reducing GHG emissions from the supply chain

SoftBank has declared that it will switch to virtually 100% renewable energy use for its business activities and electricity consumption by 2030, while at the same time achieving carbon neutrality through energy-saving initiatives that utilize cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT). In addition, the company announced its goal of achieving net-zero supply chain emissions by 2050, including GHG emissions from business partners and other sources.

Annual GHG emissions from its business activities are approximately 680,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. This is equivalent to about 250,000 average households. Among those, the electricity used by SoftBank's nationwide mobile phone base stations (approximately 230,000 units) is estimated to account for more than half of its total electricity use. By fiscal year (FY) 2021, the company had achieved the goal of switching 50% of the electricity used by base stations to renewable energy.


What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Japan is accelerating PET bottle recycling

The Coca-Cola System in Japan, consisting of Coca-Cola Japan, five domestic bottlers, and affiliates, aims to reduce its GHG emissions by 50% compared to 2015 levels by 2030, and by 30% across the entire supply chain. This is more ambitious than The Coca-Cola Company's global goal of a 25% reduction.

As a pillar of the Coca-Cola System in Japan’s activities to realize its global vision, "World Without Waste", the company is working to make 100% of its containers sustainable, and in 2021, the use of sustainable materials in PET bottles in its domestic soft drink business reached 40%.

This milestone was reached earlier than any other in the Japanese beverage industry, and is the highest percentage of any Coca-Cola System in the world, according to Jorge Garduño, President of Coca-Cola Japan. The company aims to switch all PET bottles to 100% sustainable materials by 2030.

The company is also working to reduce the amount of plastic used per container by introducing bottled beverage products which do not have labels, and by reducing the weight of packages.

Through these efforts, the entire Coca-Cola System in Japan is expected to reduce GHG emissions by roughly 26,000 tonnes, and plastic materials made from new petroleum-based raw materials by approximately 29,000 tonnes each year.

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Mandatory solar panels for new homes in Tokyo

In December 2022, the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly passed an ordinance requiring that a portion of newly built houses and buildings in Tokyo be equipped with solar panels starting in April 2025.

Yuriko Koike, Governor of Tokyo, who has taken a proactive stance toward decarbonizing Tokyo, announced at the World Economic Forum's Davos Agenda meeting in 2021 that she will set a "Carbon Half" policy goal to halve the city's GHG by 2030 compared to 2000 levels. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been promoting its efforts by imposing CO2 emission regulations on businesses and other entities, and in order to accelerate the momentum of its effort, it has launched this measure for the residential sector, which accounts for about 30% of the city's CO2 emissions.

Comparing Tokyo’s GHG emissions in FY2020 with those of FY2000, the transportation sector has decreased by half and the industrial and business sector has decreased by 7.4%, while the residential sector has increased by 32.9%. The main reason for the increase is attributed to the fact that many people spent more time at home during the pandemic.

Among the targets of the solar panels mandate that Tokyo is working on ahead of the national government, it requires about 50 major builders to equip homes with solar panels. The mandate will cover about half of the 46,000 new homes built in the capital per year, given the limitations some of the city’s houses have in harvesting solar energy.

Climate action needs cross-sector collaboration

Such ambitious actions by diverse stakeholders outside of national governments play a critical role in achieving a carbon-neutral society by 2050. To enable stakeholders from all sectors to work more closely together in accelerating and scaling up their efforts, the Japan Climate Initiative was established in 2018. Currently, 727 companies, local governments, and NGOs are members of this initiative. Reaffirming that it is our responsibility to bequeath a planet where future generations can live in peace will be essential to help accelerate efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

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