Japan has been criticised for failing to increase its ambition to tackle climate change, as it becomes the first major economy to submit updated plans on cutting emissions.
All countries are expected to submit new or updated plans this year for cutting emissions, known as “nationally determined contributions”, under the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Existing efforts set out by countries to curb greenhouse gases are not enough to limit global temperature rises to well below 2C or the tighter restriction of 1.5C, which nations signed up to under the Paris deal.
Japan has become the first country in the G7 group of leading economies to produce updated plans, ahead of a key United Nations climate meeting “Cop26”, which is supposed to take place in Glasgow in November.
The UK is hoping to drive moves towards ambitious international action in the build-up to the talks, though British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has warned the meeting may have to be delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
But Japan has stuck with its existing target of cutting emissions by 26% on 2013 levels by 2030, which analysts tracking contributions at independent organisation Climate Action Tracker has deemed “highly insufficient”.
Japan says it will pursue further efforts in the medium and long term, and is aiming for a “decarbonised society” as early as possible in the second half of the century.
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We are clear on the need for increased ambition from all countries, particularly from G7 partners.
“We hope to see a further submission that includes an increase in Japan’s headline target ahead of Cop26.”
Laurance Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation and one of the key architects of the Paris Agreement, said it was “disappointing” the Japanese government has not increased its ambition in response to the climate crisis.
“The EU, UK, China and South Korea are moving towards a new – low carbon – economy. If Japan doesn’t move, it will lose out in the high-tech race of this century.
“At one of the most challenging times of recent memory, we need bolder, mutually reinforcing plans that protect our societies from the global risks we all face.
“But there is still time: Japan should reconsider its position and come to Cop26 with a more ambitious plan. This will also allow a resilient recovery from the negative economic impact of Covid-19,” she urged.
Christian Aid’s global climate lead, Dr Kat Kramer, said: “Japan’s feeble and unchanged national climate commitment is an international disgrace.
“The fact they are smuggling it out during a global pandemic when it will avoid the scrutiny it deserves is shameful.”
Japan is a rich country with resources and the historic responsibility to make big strides to decarbonise its economy, she said.
“Yet it has utterly failed to enhance its highly insufficient pledge, that will only compound the misery of people on the front line of the climate crisis who need countries like Japan to act with urgency to do its fair share in addressing the climate crisis.”
She also criticised the country’s failure to plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and relying on unproven technologies to get there.