On April 13, the Japanese government announced its decision to release wastewater from its infamous Fukushima nuclear facility into the Pacific Ocean. The plan would authorize the release of over 1.24 million tons of treated but still radioactive water (US News and World Report).
The new Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, is set to declare Japan’s intention to become carbon-neutral by 2050 in his first general policy address to the Diet, Japan’s parliament. This is a large shift from the country’s previous goal of achieving 80% emissions reduction by 2050 and carbon neutrality at some undecided date in the latter half of the century (Nikkei, Fortune).
On April 1, the United Nations announced it would postpone this year’s climate change conference to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic (UNFCCC). The talks, originally to be held November 9-20 in Glasgow, mark the five-year deadline for countries to update their national climate targets according to the Paris Agreement of 2015.
On October 12, Typhoon Hagibis made landfall in Izu Peninsula, Japan, sweeping across the northern region of the country and causing widespread flooding (CNN). The death toll hit 74 as of October 15, according to the national Japanese broadcaster NHK. Powerful winds and rain burst 73 levees on rivers across the nation, submerged over 13,000 houses and at least partially destroyed over 1,100 homes (NHK).
On May 17, court hearings began on halting dolphin hunting in the western Japanese town of Taiji. Taiji has long maintained that the hunts, which involve driving hundreds of dolphins into coves and clubbing then to death, are a traditional part of its livelihood as the town has hunted dolphins and whales for thousands of years. An animal welfare group, a marine activist, and a man who grew up in Taiji filed suit, arguing that dolphins are protected under Japanese animal welfare laws, but are subjected to "extreme acts of cruelty" in these hunts.
In response to global pressures, Japan’s government aims to increase its renewable energy sources’ shares from 15% to between 22% and 24% by 2030. However, this push to expand the renewable energy sector may pose counterproductive threats to the environment. Residents near the proposed large-scale solar farm in the city of Kamogawa oppose these efforts, in part, because creating the “mega solar plant” involves developers destroying 300 hectares of forest. The irony of swapping carbon-sequestering trees for a solar plant is not lost on campaigners who oppose this plan.
The Sanchi, an Iranian oil tanker carrying more than 100,000 tons of toxic oil, collided with a freighter and exploded, killing all 32 crew onboard. The Sanchi was carrying the equivalent of nearly 1 million barrels of ultra-light crude, plus its own fuel, to South Korea. An updated emergency ocean model simulation shows that waters polluted by the sinking Sanchi oil tanker could reach Japan within a month. For the full story see https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-china-shipping-spill/how-sanchis-spil….
Japan's move to cut dependence of imported fossil fuels has led to a surge in the shipment of palm oil. The government instituted incentives after the Fukushima disaster in 2011, which guaranteed prices for power generated by renewable sources of energy. Palm oil is becoming more popular as facilities that burn it are the cheapest to build. While palm oil is arguably carbon-neutral, environmentalists scorn its use, which contributes to deforestation and loss of peatlands.
Hoping to fulfill Japan’s vision of being the first nation to be fueled by super-clean energy, Norway and Australia are racing to supply Japan with hydrogen. Currently, Australia has a plan to derive liquid hydrogen from brown coal, but Norway’s new pilot program to produce clean energy may be cheaper. Japan’s annual hydrogen and fuel cell market is forecast to hit 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) in 2030 and 8 trillion yen in 2050, according to the industry ministry.
A court in Japan ruled that Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) and the government are liable for negligence in a case involving compensation for the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The district court in Maebashi, north of Tokyo, ruled in favor of 137 evacuees seeking damages for the emotional distress of fleeing their homes as radiation spread from the meltdowns at Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi plant after an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. This marked the first time a court has recognized that the government was liable for the disaster.