TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged a 2 trillion yen ($19 billion) fund on Friday to promote ecological businesses and innovation to achieve his goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2050.
Suga, who took office in mid-September, set climate change as one of his main policy goals along with promoting a digital transformation of Japanese society — issues which were left behind by his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, who resigned because of ill health.
“The fund is to bolster environmental investment as we aim to become a global leader in this area,” Suga said.
He pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 in a policy speech in October, though it will be a major challenge given Japan’s significant reliance on fossil fuel.
Suga, in his first full-fledged news conference since taking office, said Friday that his Cabinet plans next week to approve an economic package that will also include 1 trillion yen ($9.5 billion) to promote the country's digital transformation — a weakness that Japan recognized when companies were requested to allow employees to work from home in response to the coronavirus and many were unable to.
Although he is known for a pragmatic approach to getting things done, it's unclear whether Suga has the political heft to overcome vested interests in weaning the resource-poor nation from its reliance on imported oil and gas.
He said Japan needs to strive to become a global leader in achieving carbon neutrality, and that investment in the environment is a growth opportunity, not a burden.
Suga repeated that he plans to deepen Japan's alliance with the United States and promote a vision of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.
For now, with Japan struggling to cope with a surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide, Suga said balancing control of the pandemic with protecting the economy will continue to be his main focus.
“As we continue to face coronavirus infections, what's most important for us is to restore a sense of safety and hope for the future,(asterisk) Suga said.
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