Most Japan firms say government unlikely to meet carbon neutrality goal by 2050: Reuters poll

Smoke rises from a factory in front of Mount Fuji during the sunset at Keihin industrial zone in Kawasaki

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan is unlikely to meet its goal of eliminating greenhouse gases by 2050, a majority of firms in the country said in a Reuters poll, underscoring the challenges Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga faces as he strives for a greener society.

Suga has made the goal a top government priority for the world’s fifth-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, marking a major shift in Japan’s position on climate change.

But while the government is taking steps to boost renewable energy and has pledged to set up a 2 trillion yen ($19.22 billion) fund to promote the cause, two-thirds of firms in the poll said Japan would not meet its goal of reducing carbon emissions to zero on a net basis over this period.

“It won’t be feasible as a drastic cut would require not only technological development but also capital investment,” a manager of a precision machinery maker wrote in the poll published on Wednesday.

The Corporate Survey showed half of the firms in the poll expected to be able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 10% over the next decade, while two in five said they could cut emissions by up to 30% in that time-frame.

While nearly a third of respondents said the ambition to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions would be negative for their businesses in the near-term, over 40% expected a positive impact longer term.

“We must make efforts to meet the target, or corporate Japan’s competitive edge would go into a decline,” an industrial rubber-maker manager wrote.

Suga’s ambition brings Japan’s target into line with the European Union while Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to make his country “carbon neutral” by 2060.

Japan’s energy sector cut carbon dioxide emissions by 4.3% in 2019 from the previous year as some nuclear reactors resumed operations years after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. While nuclear power generates less emissions than conventional energy such as fossil fuel, it has historically been prone to dangerous accidents.

Some 44% of respondents said nuclear power stations should continue to work at current levels to help the government meet its carbon neutrality target, while 27% maintained that Japan must bring more nuclear power stations back into operation.

About 500 large and medium-sized Japanese firms were surveyed between Nov. 20 and Dec. 3 for the poll conducted by Nikkei Research for Reuters. About half of them replied to the survey.

($1 = 104.0400 yen)

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)