New Japan PM Pledges to Match China’s Zero Carbon 2050 Initiative

Official portrait of Yoshihide Suga, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan
Official portrait of Yoshihide Suga, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan. By Liberal Democratic Party in Japan – CC BY 4.0, link

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050. My question, with a population density of 899 people per square mile, where do they plan to put the required renewable energy infrastructure?

Japan will become carbon neutral by 2050, PM pledges

Yoshihide Suga says dealing with climate change is no longer a constraint on growth as he sets out a bolder approach to the emergency.

Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has said the country will become carbon neutral by 2050, heralding a bolder approach to tackling the climate emergency by the world’s third-biggest economy.

“Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth,” Suga said on Monday in his first policy address to parliament since taking office.

“We need to change our thinking to the view that taking assertive measures against climate change will lead to changes in industrial structure and the economy that will bring about growth.”

To applause from MPs, he added: “I declare we will aim to realise a decarbonised society.”

Greenpeace Japan welcomed Suga’s commitment to carbon neutrality, but said there should be no role for nuclear power.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/26/japan-will-become-carbon-neutral-by-2050-pm-pledges

Given Yoshihide Suga is the 11th Japanese Prime Minister in 20 years, it may be premature to make the effort of commiting Yoshihide’s name to memory. Or perhaps he will turn out to be more sensible than Greenpeace, about issues like nuclear power.

Despite Fukishima, if Japan genuinely wants to go zero carbon, with their population density and inhospitable terrain, nuclear power really is the only viable option.

87 thoughts on “New Japan PM Pledges to Match China’s Zero Carbon 2050 Initiative

  1. Yoshihide Suga, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan does not look all that bright to judge by his photo. At least, though, perhaps, he will appreciate Nuclear Power, and not dabble in ‘Renewables’.

    • where do they plan to put the required renewable energy infrastructure?

      Where did you see any mention of renewables in PM Suga’s statement ?

        • I read that the Fukushima plant operators were given an annual safety course by the plant builders but clearly were not too interested…..the backup generators could have been located on nearby high ground at little additional cost and that would have avoided the meltdown…man made error. Japan depends on exports for economic well being….the USA imports from Japan helped in their economic success. I am sure that Japan will be offering solar cells and batteries and maybe wind mills but Japan has had a big competitor – China – and S. Korea to some extent…..China and S. Korea have not forgotten WW2.

          • “T. C. Clark October 27, 2020 at 1:15 pm”

            I think you don’t understand Japanese culture. They may have been given training but the plant was a design from the 70’s and destined for closure anyway.

    • Indeed. That official photo makes him look like he just took an enormous bong hit. One has to wonder what all of the rejected official photos looked like.

      • As a phrenologist extraordinaire I am in complete agreement with you (But as some one once said ”Who are we two against so many?”

  2. I suggest that the key is “match China”. China has absolutely no intention of being zero carbon at any future date, and all Japan has to do is match China. There are actually significant benefits for Japan with this approach, because China is free to increase fossil fuel usage as much as it likes till 2030, under the Paris agreement, and the same agreement would be great for Japan.

    • The entire world should match China: talk big and do nothing (at least about climate change).

      The Japanese are smart enough to know this and they will only “de-carbonize”as much as their nuclear power-plants will let them. I only wish the people of my country (Australia) were as smart as the Japanese. Sadly, we’re not even half that smart.

    • I agree Mike, but would go further and suggest every single country should follow China’s yoy changes in CO2. If they go up, then we should all go up by a similar % and vice versa. When you consider that China is praised by green groups, it makes sense to follow behaviour that is rewarded.

  3. He could actually be making an incredible troll.

    After all China openly states they are going to do sod all until some vague time in the future, then do something else vague and then, in 30 years time, just ignore it.

    Let us be honest, can anyone here who isn’t a major political historian remember what the election promises were from their major parties in their country were in the election closest to 1990? For those who can, how many of those promises converted to changes that are still applicable (and unchanged over 30 years) today?

    The only real thing you can promise by 2050 is that it will objectively be 30 years from now. That is all.

    • China is still installing vast amounts of wind and solar and some nuclear.

      Who can say what is happening with coal? Central govt halts it: regional officials build it. A conundrum there we should all try to understand – in a centralised communist state, some people don’t have to follow the rules? sometimes the coal plant is used at much less than capacity… and then it isn’t.

      People point out that Chinese govts don’t announce things that they aren’t sure they can deliver (don’t want to ‘lose face’.

      China is an enigma…

      • Griff you are very close to understanding what is wrong with command economies. Even when the boss can have you shot, there is still plenty of room to misbehave.

        If only there was an economic system in which the rules were clear, and the rules encourage people to make a genuine effort of their own free will…

      • http://ectltd.com.au/why-japan-is-building-22-new-coal-fired-power-stations/

        Closing old coal, opening new coal and gas plants.

        They will be there many years after installed wind has died and been removed.

        Meanwhile China build COAL fired power at many times the rate of renewables.

        ” By 2030, it’s expected to reach a 52-gigawatt capacity” (offshore wind)

        “China has 250 GW of coal-fired power under development”

        https://www.reuters.com/article/china-coal-idUSL4N2E20HS

        So the amount of coal fired under development is FIVE TIME the TOTAL amount of offshore wind capacity expected by 2030 and wind is only 30% or so of nameplate.

        So COAL is leaving wind looking like a child’s huff and a puff on the third little pig’s house of bricks (bricks fired by coal or gas, of course)

        Your fantasies.. left in the gutter, yet again.. poor griff..

        Off you go and find some others. !

        • And virtually all of their renewable equipment is manufactured directly via coal power as it is not possible to manufacture solar panels especially without using carbon.

          • Oh, come on man! Everyone knows that all you need to do is to put some…stuff, in the sun, and then it kind of…panel-izes, right, then you have your sunpanels all ready to save the…clintons? climate? cleavage? Oh, never mind, Joe Biden will know /sarc

      • Not an enigma. Simply pragmatic. The provinces and cities provide infrastructure and job opportunities. That’s the tax money the Central Government gets. The Central government can make whatever rules they want but the provinces still do their thing. It’s actually very Chinese. It’s what I loved about the place.
        The Chinese respect and approve of the government and officials making rules but proceed to do what they have always done.

      • Correction: China is SELLING vast quantities of solar panels and windmills to the West. I lived in China for 5 years and travelled extensively there. I can’t recall seeing a single wind turbine or solar panel. The only solar I saw were tiny domestic water-heaters on the roofs of houses in rural areas, of which there were many.

        A large proportion of Politburo members have engineering qualifications and are numerate, unlike Grifiepoo. They know Renewables are drivel.

      • “….Who can say what is happening with coal? Central govt halts it: regional officials build it…..”

        Who can say what is happening with coal? Central govt SAYS they are halting it: regional officials MIGHT be building it…

        There. Fixed that for you. The point being that you CAN’T trust anything reported nowadays. Especially not from China, Greenpeace or the Democratic Party…

        • The central government never said that they were stopping it. The only statement they have made was a slight decrease in the number of new plants they were expecting to build over the next 10 years.

      • China sees right through London and Obama’s “rules -based ” drivel.
        The IMF, WB all claim pro-development, and hogtie anyone foolish to follow their rules.
        The Belt And Road Initiative means real development, infrastructure, and a future.

        Just look at mad Mike “Armageddon” Pompeo doing his China-bashing act. And the Pentagon overflying Taiwan, or 2 US Senators dressed in Antifa black at the Hong Kong riots. And London’s Henry Jackson Society Corona hoax, with reparations!

        China sure has stirred up a hornets nest! The “rules-based” crowd sure show their real face!
        The days of the British Empire bombing Shanghai for heroin free-trade are long gone!

      • China has 121GW coal power plants under construction. And don’t be naive; in centralized comunist state economies people follow the rules. So, China, soon will have 1300GW installed coal power plants. Compare that with Australia; not even 16GW.

      • In fact renewables in China peaked in last quarter of 2017 and have been declining quarter on quarter since.

      • China never stopped the production of coal fired power plants.
        A year or so ago, they announced that instead of 600 new plants, they were only going to build 590.

        Maybe in your warped mind that counts as stopping (as you claimed at the time), but to those whose brains aren’t fried by Marxist ideation, it’s counts as accelerating at a slightly slower rate.

      • I spent nearly two decades living and working in China. China is not an enigma. China is very simple, at least in this regard. The Chinese government announces whatever it chooses to announce, and the Chinese government then does whatever it chooses to do, regardless of what it has previously announced. In case of any perceived dissonance between these two things resulting in potential loss of face, the Chinese government simply states that reality is whatever they choose it to be. People will either be gullible enough to believe them, or they won’t. The Chinese government doesn’t much care. Enigma solved.

        To take but one example out of millions, according to the Chinese government, Uighurs in Xianjiang are currently benefitting from “vocational training centers.” As a result of generously being allowed into these vocational training centers, “people in Xinjiang feel much better, and much more happy and secure.” See? Now apply this same principle to anything and everything the Chinese government says about its commitment to a carbon free future (or commitment to its Joint Declaration on Hong Kong, or pretty much anything else it has ever committed to). This will clear up much of your confusion.

        As for regional and local governments, this is also relatively easy to understand. China is not actually a centralised state. China is a vast, chaotic mess that operates on a feudal model, and the central government has never, in the entire history of that country, had strong control over what actually goes on in the hinterlands. This is epitomized by the ancient Chinese saying that, “the mountains are high, and the Emperor is far away” (山高皇帝远).

        Like the Great Eye of Sauron, the central government occasionally fixes its gaze on one place or another, causing a certain degree of terror and a semblance of obeyance, and then that gaze inevitably shifts elsewhere, and people go back to doing whatever they want / can get away with. Again, this is not an enigma. It is all very simple if you simply see China for what it is, rather than what you imagine it to be. Of course, if you were able to see things for what they are rather than as you imagine them to be, you probably would have a very different view on the climate as well.

      • China installed 53GW of coal last year. They call people like Griff who believe their agitprop: “Baizuo”.

      • Wow Griff.

        China imports coal.

        Are you honestly trying to tell us that the Lean, Green and Carbon Caring Central Government are just happily allowing coal to be imported for giggles because they know none of will end up being burnt in the non existent coal plants they have banned?

        It would be allowing people to import restricted drugs into their country because ‘Drugs Are Bad, Mkay’ and they know no one is going to ever take them.

        Honestly Griff, if you ACTUALLY believe Carbon(tm) is the ultimate evil you would take China to task. I will give you benefit in that you might be emailing Chairman Renewable daily and you might spend your non keyboard hours sitting, Greta like, in the snow outside your closest Chinese consulate refusing to go back to your school classes until they bend to your demands. I mean you might be doing that, but if you are you are being very modest about it.

        Seriously Griff, if you honestly believe then you need to start calling out ALL nations as your first priority and as a second priority you need to start learning how structured arguments actually work. Pointing out that ‘China is an enigma’ is not a rational defence of their policy. Face it, Greta argues better than you and all she does is glare at people.

        • You can’t just keep yelling ‘China bad’ and ignoring all the good stuff which is actually happening -a lot of posters here are under the impression solar, wind etc doesn’t work on a large scale and/or hasn’t started being rolled out yet.

          I’m trying to point out the massive second industrial revolution happening out there, the successful investment, the operating renewables, the lack of complete grid failures, etc

      • “griff October 27, 2020 at 12:40 am

        China is still installing vast amounts of wind and solar and some nuclear.”

        Also building vast cities that no-one lives in, and we have evidence of that.

  4. A pledge to do something by 2050 is politically high value, low risk. He should join the Magic Circle, except by now we should all know how this trick works?

  5. I really can’t imagine the Japanese people being too keen on having huge wind turbines splattered all over their gorgeous picturesque landscape. !

    Scope for off shore.. Hope they can keep their grid stable, because they aren’t like Europe where surrounding countries can help support the inherent instability of grid systems due to erratic power supplies.

  6. how co2 free are those new armored islands in the china sea and how many
    more will be constructed??

  7. The Japanese are pioneering floating solar panels, on reservoirs… including some near shore installations. They also have an awful lot of roofspace… and floating wind turbines is a new technology now coming into widespread use.

    • People are pretty intensively stacked on top of each other. All those floaty things are vulnerable to typhoons, nobody has really solved that problem. Japan probably has some excellent hydroelectric sites which have not been developed, but I suspect if the plan is to flood out a bunch of sacred historic gardens it won’t end well for whoever proposes the idea.

    • And what will happen during winter, if suddenly sun is hidden behind clouds, and there is no wind?

      I will tell you what. It begins with “mass” and ends with “extinction”.

      And before you say “this is impossible”, let’s remember California August 2020 and switching off electric appliances after 3 PM.

    • Yeah things are so good in Japan for solar … google Japan solar bankruptcies 2018 -2020 after they cut the feed in tarrif 🙂

    • California could pioneer things as well by removing all those stacks of concrete in SF and converting it to wilderness land. It would make a wonderful statement to the world about commitment to the cause.

    • Japan is next to one of those areas where the ocean bottom is being shoved underneath the mantle, creating large earthquakes and tsunamis. It will be interesting to see how well massive wind turbines, or any such things floating on or near the ocean, manage to survive the next big one.

    • floating wind turbines is are a new technology now coming into widespread use.

      Honestly Griff, I used to think that you couldn’t be stupid enough to believe this stuff and were simply paid to troll blogs with it, but now I am not so sure.

    • You don’t read posts do you griff….

      Meanwhile China build COAL fired power at many times the rate of renewables.

      ” By 2030, it’s expected to reach a 52-gigawatt capacity” (offshore wind)

      “China has 250 GW of coal-fired power under development”

      https://www.reuters.com/article/china-coal-idUSL4N2E20HS

      So the amount of coal fired under development is FIVE TIME the TOTAL amount of offshore wind capacity expected by 2030 and wind is only 30% or so of nameplate.

      So COAL is leaving wind looking like a child’s huff and a puff on the third little pig’s house of bricks (bricks fired by coal or gas, of course)

      • And yet outside China multiple nations push on with massive renewable projects – and China also installs renewables alongside the coal.

        (what’s with the random CAPITAL letters?)

  8. Japan’s total nameplate installed wind power is a tiny 4 GW. There are plans since 2011 to develop floating 2 MW wind turbines but nothing has materialized. The ocean dept goes down to 11 km outside the east cost of Japan, and the country is so heavily populated that there is no space for large on shore wind or solar farms.

    Then there are the typhoons that hit Japan 7-8 times per year with wind speeds up to 300 km per hour, and that is after they hit land. Out in the ocean they are even stronger. I have seen large bill boards weighting hundreds of kilos been swept away by the wind like paper.

    Finally, Japan is hit about by six major earthquakes above magnitude 6 every year, and occasionally they are much stronger like the magnitude 9 earthquake that hit Sendai and the whole of Japan on March 11, 2011. I was at the epicenter of the earthquake and barely survived. The next day I went to Fukushima just in time to experience the nuclear meltdown. I escaped by taxi to Tokyo in a 11 hour drive by small roads as all the major highways were destroyed or closed.

  9. Good of you to post this, Eric. The time for the advancement of modern nuclear electricity generation plants is here. Every nuclear disaster, like Chernobyl and Fukushima (Three Mile Island was not an event of significance), allows large leaps toward safer designs and operating protocols, such that a truly modern nuclear plant is very safe. These advances include, but are not limited to, designs that drop fuel rods into separate areas when electric power is cut (Fukushima needed electricity to lift the rods out of place), loss of coolant fail-safe, control of reckless experiment protocols (at Chernobyl a low coolant test needed to shut off all of the alarms to run a dangerous test), and siting where there is inherent safety, not risk, to populations. A side benefit to a modern reactor at a seaside location is a desalination effect for potable water. Modern plants can utilize thorium 233 fuel rods which have no weapons grade material. Japan? Perfect except for earthquakes, which means finding isolated structural blocks and adjusting the design, especially of the base.

    • I think the key lesson from Chernobyl and Fukushima is keep the core small. High surface area to volume = very little risk if the thing melts or otherwise malfunctions. If your reactor is small the moment the core shape deforms from optimal it loses all its heat and solidifies.

      • Chernobyl was a design rejected in the west because it was inherently unsafe.
        To top off the stupidity, the engineers then disabled most of the safeties so they could run experiment to see how close they could get to the plants unstable region without losing control. They got too close and lost control.
        To top that off, had they spent money on a containment dome, nobody in the west would have ever heard of the accident.

        The lesson of Fukushima is to make sure that your back up generator won’t get flooded by a tsunami.
        The other reactors on that site had no troubles.

      • I think this is very pertinent. It hadn’t occurred to me that passive cooling under SCRAM conditions would be easier in smaller reactors, so that nay well be another reason for the SMRs being pushed harder.

  10. They don’t have to change much at all if they pay some other country for carbon indulgences, much as Al Gore does when he flies around telling us what to do then paying one of his own companies for carbon offsets.

    • “They don’t have to change much at all if they pay some other country for carbon indulgences” …

      Now that presents a real opportunity for Canada if only our Prime Minister weren’t so enthralled with the UN and was pragmatic instead of fawning. He has promised to plant 2 billion trees to save the planet. Instead he should be threatening to clearcut 2 billion trees and put the chance to save them on the carbon offset market.

  11. Griff.Plenty of wind in that part of the world. How many typhoons in an average year? Throw in a couple of big tsunamis. Perfect for floating turbines.

  12. Slightly OT:
    I was told on RTL, German national TV, that there is no electricity for a million people currently in California. Switched off due to fire.
    Is that correct.

  13. My question is, why? Aside from the virtue signaling, what’s in it for Japan? Hey Japan, how’s that whale slaughter going? Yeah, that’s so “green” of you.

  14. The Timor Sea gas field development, the 900 km undersea pipeline to Darwin, and the LNG facility there were all developed primarily with Japanese investment. All in an effort to supply Japan with LNG it needs post-Fukashima.
    The Timor Sea maybe the equivalent of the North Sea in terms of gas resources. There’s probably a 100 year supply of natural gas there for Japan to buy from the Aussies. Japan has no intention of stopping that anytime in the future,

  15. We all better get moving on spaced-base solar arrays. Or we could recognize that promises to do something in 30 years aren’t worth the CO2 expelled in speaking them. 30 years is plenty of time for people to stop caring about carbon emissions.

    • After observing all of the low temperature records which were, in some cases massively, broken in our west this past week, why is it that we should be worried about carbon emissions? I am afraid I just don’t understand . . . . .

  16. Anybody that thinks Japan will cover their beautiful islands with ugly wind farms and solar panels knows nothing about Japan’s geology, geography, or culture. Japan is almost entirely rugged mountains. Alluvial fans and coastal plains are used for agriculture, especially wet rice agriculture, and in modern times mega cities. The forested mountains are not conducive to the construction of wind and solar infrastructure and the massive net works of roads and bridges required to build and maintain them. Japan also receives a fair amount of snow and cloud cover. Hokkaido measures snow fall in meters. It is not a particularly windy place.

    I seriously doubt that the royal family and the Shinto priests will allow the sacred mountains, such as Mt Kongo, and many, many, others to be desecrated by useless renewable energy and the supporting machinery and the roads.

    Off shore? Forget it. Japan has a long standing relationship to the sea. They are a sea faring people. Japan depends on aquatic agriculture to feed itself. The Japanese consume more seafood per capita than anywhere else in the world. They enjoy their beaches and ocean views as much as they do their mountains too.

  17. Before I even read the article, the first thought was, like any thinking person, unless it’s nuclear this is a complete sham.
    But it never was about climate.

  18. “..where do they plan to put the required renewable energy infrastructure..?”
    They don’t. A few years from now – once the coal, gas and nuclear power stations have been largely retired – the same people clamouring for wind and solar farms will be enforcing restrictions on them: the rationale will be the “unforeseen” devastation and extinction of bird species, bats and insects. The only knob then left will be consumption, and you already know in what direction that control will be turned.
    And there ends, or severely curtails, your travel, meat consumption, leather goods, heating, air-con, and, in general, freedom to buy what you want to buy when you want to buy it. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to imagine what a carbon ration book (e-book of course) could do to the second amendment, for example. You’re allowed to buy that gun, it’s just it will take out twenty years of your family’s vacation travel allowance.
    This is what is known in boxing terminology as the old one-two. They know what they are doing, they are patient, and they are ruthless.

  19. The future of nuclear power is clearly not conventional light water reactors, but instead will certainly be molten salt small modular reactors, ala Moltex Energy, etc which can produce power at 4 cents per kWhr, levelized, and can be built in factories and quickly installed on site without any need for cooling bodies of water. I’m astounded that Greenpeace is so ignorant of future energy technologies – wind turbines are now known to force CO2 from the ground by their winds, so much that they have no ability to reduce CO2 atmospheric levels whatsoever.

  20. In Murray & Herrnstein’s book “The Bell Curve,” they noted from their research and testing that the country/society with the highest average IQ was Japan. I wonder what they’d find now.

  21. Oh dear let’s not forget that CO2 is not a menace anyway. Therefore all this argument is pointless.

  22. China’s promise is little more than saying ‘some time in the future , we will stop increasing our emissions and you will know we have because we will tell you so’

    Easy to agree with that .

  23. Why would anyone believe anything China says? Why would anyone base policy on what China says it will do? We have all seen China continuously lies to gain advantage.

  24. re: “New Japan PM Pledges to Match China’s Zero Carbon 2050 Initiative”

    An ‘easy thing to do’. Help is on the way – “NEWS & UPDATES” – SunCell ™ development: https://brilliantlightpower.com/news/

    Roughly a 200x improvement in ‘energy yield’ per Hydrogen atom when electron is taken to a lower than ground state (as QM defines it) than simply ‘burning’ that same Hydrogen atom in a normal reaction with Oxygen …

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