Japan at COP26: Focus Points and Expectations

November 1, 2021|

The Japanese delegation at this week’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Scotland will have three main focuses: Coal; How to value and trade carbon; and, Rules for measuring emissions.

Some members of the delegation expect the climate talks to be tense and stretch beyond COP26’s Nov. 12 closing date. Nevertheless, they feel there’s broad consensus among the nearly 200 participating countries on certain topics, especially the need to kickstart an international market mechanism for carbon credits.

In recent years an international climate event would have filled Japanese negotiators with dread. The country was routinely slammed for supporting coal-fired generation, with one environmental NGO twice crowning Japan with its satirical “Fossil of the Day” award. Previous Environment Minister Koizumi even claimed such criticism was a catalyst for the country’s net-zero emissions pledge.

A year on from Japan’s commitment, however, and attitudes towards coal power plants are shifting. The G7 recently narrowed its criticism of coal to “unabated” thermal stations, while touting the potential of carbon capture and co-firing systems. There’s also a growing interest globally in some form of carbon credits both to offset the CO2 that cannot be avoided and to encourage efforts that does avoid it.

For Japan, the position change on coal and greater global interest in international mechanism for carbon credit offer hope of solutions that can act in concert with a turn to renewable energy. While Japan has committed to doubling the ratio of renewables in its power mix by 2030, that move alone wouldn’t curb emissions by the amount specified in its NDC pledge.

Equally important for Japan will be to direct the global conversation during COP26 towards how to measure CO2 and other greenhouse gases at the local, corporate and national level. At stake is Japan’s ability to carry out decarbonization not only at home but also to lead the effort across Asia.

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