Japan almost doubled its goal for carbon emissions reduction and unveiled plans to cut red tape for clean energy projects, in a move that analysts said would add to momentum behind higher renewables ambitions in the world’s third-largest economy.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday said Japan will now target a 46% cut in emissions by 2030 against 2013 levels, compared to a previous goal of 26%.

The Japanese environment ministry also revealed plans to cut approval times for wind projects, strengthen the grid and removal other obstacles to renewables, Reuters reported.

"The entire government will work together to make renewable energy a mainstream power source," Japan's environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi was quoted by the news agency as saying.

Net zero ambitions

Suga last year announced he wants to steer Japan towards net zero emissions by 2050, but the nation has faced questions over its slow coal phase-out and continuing role for nuclear, despite the legacy of the Fukushima disaster.

Offshore wind is set to play a major part in the nation’s energy transition, with the government indicating it wants to see up to 45GW deployed by 2040.

Japan is currently conducting a review of energy policy that renewables advocates hope will strengthen targets for clean generation, and help tackle issues such as difficulties for companies in sourcing green power that has led major industrial groups such as Sony to warn that their own corporate sustainability agendas are being undermined.

Peter Grayson, a senior associate at law firm Ashurst based in Tokyo, told Recharge: “Policy statements such as [Suga's emissions target] will ensure that the momentum currently gathering in the renewable energy sector in Japan will continue at an encouraging pace.

“Challenges remain however. Policy commitments are key, but the related targets are ambitious and investment in key areas such as grid infrastructure must continue if Japan is to deliver on these targets and establish itself as a leader for worldwide decarbonisation,” said Grayson.

Japan was among a clutch of nations to announce stronger goals as a summit organised by president Joe Biden got underway with a pledge to cut US emissions by half by 2030.

Canada said it would look by 2030 to cut emissions by up to 45% from 2005 levels, against a previous 30% goal.