Japan is the biggest market for Australia’s thermal coal and gas exports, buying more than 40% of each. Suga’s announcement follows China saying it would reach “carbon neutrality” no later than 2060.
He did not provide details of how net zero would be reached, but said he would promote renewable energy, prioritise safety while seeking a bigger role for nuclear power and “fundamentally change Japan’s long-term reliance on coal-fired energy”.
Its national energy plan is due to be revised next year. Scientists with Climate Action Tracker have previously found the country’s climate plans, including its short-term commitments over the next decade, were “highly insufficient”.
Australian climate analysts said it was further evidence a shift was under way and the Morrison government – which has resisted calls to set a mid-century target and prepare fossil fuel communities for life after coal – should take notice.
Howard Bamsey, Australia’s former special envoy on climate change, said Japan’s pledge illustrated major trading partners were changing their industrial profiles.
“It’s another signal to Australia that we need to get our act together and have a real strategy, not another of these roadmaps that don’t offer direction,” he said. “What matters here is the economic pressure. The world is changing and we need to be part of that change.”
Erwin Jackson, the director of policy with the Investor Group on Climate Change, said Japan’s announcement confirmed what “we’ve known for some time” – that the transition to net zero emissions would happen. He said the 2050 goal had been backed by business groups, investors and the community.
“The core reason Australia isn’t prepared for that is the toxic politics around climate change over the past decade,” he said.