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Japan: the next generation of LDP leaders embrace both carbon neutrality and the elimination of nuclear energy.

Nuclear Power and Japan’s 2050 Climate Pledge

Japan’s latest carbon-neutrality pledge puts the spotlight on the challenges facing the country’s nuclear power industry. The Diplomat , By Tom Corben,, November 05, 2020  In his inaugural address to the Diet last month, Japan’s Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide officially announced that his government would revise the country’s carbon-neutrality commitments, aiming for zero emissions by 2050. Suga expressed his intent to “put maximum effort into achieving a green society…..

Importantly, it seems as though the next generation of LDP leaders are embracing both carbon neutrality and the elimination of nuclear energy. Like Abe governments of the recent past, Suga’s cabinet features two particularly prominent politicians and possible future prime ministers who have stated their anti-nuclear preferences before, one of whom – Koizumi Shinjiro – is also the incumbent minister for the environment. Though the Environment Ministry does not officially set Japan’s energy policy, Koizumi has nevertheless been a driving force behind many of Japan’s recent environmental and clean energy initiatives since assuming his post in September 2019, including the revision of Japan’s decarbonization target.
In that respect, Koizumi has also been a vocal supporter both of Japan’s decision to more tightly regulate the country’s exports of coal-fired power stations and of reducing the country’s own reliance on those facilities. Koizumi has also proposed easing restrictions on building solar and wind turbine sites in Japan’s national parks, part of a solution to get around the challenge that Japan’s land scarcity has posed to the mass introduction of renewables. Though he has made no extensive public comment on phasing out nuclear power since his inaugural press conference last year, that silence may in itself may be an indication that Koizumi’s views on a nuclear phaseout remain unchanged even in the wake of more ambitious climate targets.

Of course, the nuclear lobby’s entrenched interests at the highest levels of the government and within the LDP itself will likely continue to frustrate efforts to comprehensively revise Japan’s nuclear energy policies. Indeed, there is every chance that the revised Basic Energy Plan due next year will maintain, if not expand, the share of Japan’s energy mix allocated to nuclear power. Still, without significant changes to the regulatory environment, a more favorable business environment, or a major shift in public opinion or political support, at present it is difficult to see Japan’s nuclear power industry making a major contribution to Japan’s carbon-neutrality goals in the coming decades.

Tom Corben is a resident Vasey Fellow with Pacific Forum.

November 7, 2020 - Posted by | climate change, Japan, politics

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