Japan's FY2022 greenhouse gas emissions fall to record low but still not sufficient
- effective long-term measures are needed

April 16, 2024
Kiko Network
Mie Asaoka, President

On April 12, 2024, the Ministry of the Environment and the National Institute for Environmental Studies released Japan’s National Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals in Fiscal Year 2022. In FY2022, Japan’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were estimated at approximately 1,085 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq.), showing a 2.3% (25.1 Mt CO2 eq.) decrease from FY2021, and a 22.9% (322.1 Mt CO2 eq.) decrease compared to FY2013.

The Ministry of Environment stated that the country's GHG emissions fell to a record low and that Japan is “on-track” to meet its climate targets (steady downward trend toward net-zero in 2050). The Ministry further explained that "While emissions from the transportation sector grew due to an increase in transportation volume resulting from the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, a possible main factor for the decrease in emissions as compared to FY2021 is the reduced energy consumption. This is due to the significant effect of electricity/energy-saving efforts in the Industry, Commercial and other, and Residential sectors.”

It was also revealed that emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which had been increasing every year since 2004, decreased for the first time. In addition, for the first time in the world, Japan reported an estimated total of approximately 0.35 Mt of removals in blue carbon ecosystems like seagrass meadows and macroalgal beds, and approximately 17 tons of removals (CO2 fixation) by environmentally friendly concrete.

Kiko Network points out the following five problems based on the published results:

First, the Ministry of the Environment has assessed current emissions as if reductions at this point are sufficient, claiming that the "steady downward trend toward net zero in 2050" is "on-track.” In order to achieve the 1.5℃ target, global CO2 emissions should be roughly halved by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. As a developed country, Japan's 2030 target (46% reduction from the 2013 level) is insufficient to achieve the 1.5°C target, which requires a reduction of 60% or more from Japan. Japan has agreed to the 1.5℃ target, and so it should be evaluated based on whether or not emission reductions follow a pathway toward achieving that target. In fact, the global average temperature in 2023 has risen by 1.45℃, leaving almost no carbon budget remaining. The Ministry should not assume that current reductions are sufficient.

Second, the fact that emissions reached their lowest level since 1990 was not the result of climate change policies, but rather a natural decrease in emissions due to a decline in population and the number of households, as well as "power saving and energy conservation" by the public, as pointed out by the Ministry of the Environment. During this period, the industrial sector left measures to the voluntary action plans of industry, new coal-fired thermal power plants continued to increase, carbon pricing was not introduced, and no effective emission regulations were implemented. In the transportation sector, a gasoline subsidy system was introduced in January 2022, which does not encourage the acceleration of EVs like in other countries.
Under these circumstances, it is clear that none of the measures necessary to decarbonize the power sector, phase out coal-fired power generation, and triple renewable energy and double energy conservation as required by international agreements have been taken.Had proactive climate change policies based on international agreements been implemented after 2020, much more substantial reductions could have been achieved, and it is highly likely that further acceleration of reductions in the future would have been possible.

The third problem relates to the point that emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) decreased for the first time. This can be attributed to a shift from the refrigerants in commercial refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, which account for the majority of HFCs usage, from HFC410A (GWP = 2,256) and HFC404A (GWP = 3,920) to HFC32 (GWP = 771) and others after the enactment of the Fluorocarbon Emission Control Act in 2013. It took more than 10 years for emissions to decrease (1.6% reduction compared to 2021), and this is a far cry from the 44% reduction from FY2013 levels targeted for 2030 under the Global Warming Countermeasures Plan, etc. Necessary measures, such as the use of non-CFC refrigerants and the improvement of the CFC recovery rate, have not progressed, and so a review of the measures is needed.

The fourth issue is about the estimation of absorption by blue carbon ecosystems. Recently, the phenomenon of "sea desertification," in which seaweed beds in rocky reefs and boulder areas in shallow waters decline or disappear significantly beyond the range of seasonal or secular changes, has become a very serious problem in many areas. It is important to promote efforts to restore such a situation, but we should be cautious about calculating the amount of GHG absorbed by the seaweed beds. In addition to the fact that it takes time for seaweed beds to grow or recover, it cannot be denied that if blue carbon ecosystems, which are directly exposed to climate change and rising sea temperatures, are destroyed, there is a risk that the carbon stored in them will be released again and become a new emission source. Thus, we must be cautious about calculating the amount of carbon absorbed by temporary measures.

The fifth problem relates to the estimation of absorption of GHG by “environmentally friendly concrete”. This concrete is manufactured from by-products such as blast furnace slag discharged from steel mills and fly ash discharged from coal-fired power plants instead of cement, and some is produced using methods that convert CO2 into calcium carbonate and mix it in. In the end, this still emits large amounts of CO2 at the source, making it problematic to call it "environmentally friendly”. In addition, the calculation of CO2 absorption should be done with more caution, since the sustainability of CO2 fixation has not yet been fully verified.

A fundamental change in policy direction is necessary for Japan so that current climate change measures can be revised to be consistent with the 1.5°C target in the short term, and further reductions can be achieved in efforts after 2030. To prepare for the submission of its updated NDC in 2025, the government should not evaluate the current reductions as sufficient, and should promote discussion on revising climate change measures as soon as possible.


The Ministry of the Environment and the National Institute for Environmental Studies
Japan’s National Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals in Fiscal Year 2022 (Link)

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