May 29, 2021

Environment chief Nakai details path to 2050

Richard Smith
Contributing writer

Tokutaro Nakai
Vice-Minister of the Environment

Tokutaro Nakai, director-general for environmental policy at Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, participated in the ESG symposium organized by The Japan Times and held on May 13. He presented the Japanese government’s plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has announced plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and in the process reduce greenhouse gases by 46% by 2030 and aim for as high as 50%, Nakai said. “As expressed in the increase in the 2030 target, the five-year and 10-year periods until 2030 will be the battleground for the realization of carbon neutrality by 2050,” he said.

The Ministry of the Environment has submitted four bills to the Diet to strengthen its policy, and Nakai discussed two bills in relation to climate change. One is the revision of the Act on Promotion of Global Warming Countermeasures. The bill, he said, clarifies the policy’s legal basis by setting 2050 as the target date for carbon neutrality, thus ensuring policy continuity and increasing investment predictability.

“We will also promote the introduction of renewable energy in the regions, revitalize local economies and work to create regions that are resilient to disasters,” Nakai said.

“Furthermore, we will also promote the utilization of environmental information through publication of companies’ greenhouse gas emissions data,” he said.

The other one is the Bill of the Plastic Resource Circulation Act, a sort of “new circular economy law”. In order to realize carbon neutrality, the objective of a recycling-oriented economy is indispensable from the standpoint of efficient resource usage, Nakai said.

“This bill will promote resource recycling efforts throughout the life cycle of plastic products, from their design and manufacture to post-use processing, and create an environment in which consumers can easily choose from companies that are making ambitious efforts,” he said.

Efforts by local governments and companies are indispensable for the realization of a carbon-free society. The “zero-carbon city” movement, in which local governments aim for virtually zero emissions of carbon dioxide by 2050, now encompasses more than 380 governments, with populations totaling more than 110 million.

“At the Prime Minister’s Office’s National and Local Decarbonization Realization Conference, we are making a road map for developing leading models of decarbonization in various places, and setting up decarbonization dominoes one after another during the intensive period of five years until 2025,” Nakai said.

In addition to the efforts of local governments, it is essential that corporate ESG management and information disclosure spread, along with ESG finance by institutions and investors. The number of supporters in Japan of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures remains the highest in the world, and such efforts are the driving force behind the world’s decarbonization, Nakai said.

As ESG finance becomes a global trend, domestic ESG investment already exceeds ¥300 trillion ($2.75 trillion), and increased even amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I would like institutional investors and financial institutions to conduct investment and financing that pursues positive impacts on the environment and society through ‘impact finance,’ which is becoming mainstream in Europe and the U.S. as a development of ESG finance,” Nakai said.

Regional financial institutions such as banks and credit unions are expected to lead a virtuous cycle of the environment and economy, involving local governments and small and medium-size enterprises through their main businesses.

“This spring, the Ministry of the Environment and the Financial Services Agency launched a collaborative team to revitalize sustainable regional economies and societies,” Nakai said.

Click the link below to watch the interview

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