But under current national targets, the global temperature is likely to rise beyond that limit within the next 10 years, according to UN scientists, who have warned that the world is facing an “avoidable human tragedy”.
Download the new Independent Premium app
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
Despite rising pressure for governments to increase their ambition in tackling climate change, Japan’s carbon targets, announced on Monday and known as its “nationally determined contribution”, remain unchanged from its commitments made five years ago for the Paris accord.
The country is continuing to target a 26 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 – a figure that is rated as “highly insufficient” by the Climate Action Tracker analysis.
Japan says it will pursue further efforts in the medium and long term, and is aiming for a “decarbonised society” as early as possible in the second half of the century.
Laurance Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation and one of the key architects of the Paris Agreement, urged the Japanese government to reconsider its ”disappointing” proposals and adopt a more “ambitious” stance.
“The EU, UK, China and South Korea are moving towards a new – low carbon – economy,” she said. “If Japan doesn’t move, it will lose out in the high-tech race of this century.
“At one of the most challenging times of recent memory, we need bolder, mutually reinforcing plans that protect our societies from the global risks we all face.”
Japan is the first major economy from the G7 group to produce updated plans ahead of a vital United Nations climate conference, “Cop26”, which is set to take place in Glasgow in November.
The UK is hoping to drive moves towards ambitious international action in the build-up to the talks, though foreign secretary Dominic Raab has warned the meeting may have to be delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Addressing the Japanese proposals, a spokeswoman for the UK government said: “We are clear on the need for increased ambition from all countries, particularly from G7 partners.
“We hope to see a further submission that includes an increase in Japan’s headline target ahead of Cop26.”
Concerns have also been raised that countries will use the coronavirus pandemic, and the economic fallout it has triggered, to justify a step back from the commitments of the Paris Agreement.
“Japan should not slow down climate actions even amid the Covid-19 global fights, and must revisit and strengthen this plan swiftly in order to be in line with the Paris agreement,” said Kimiko Hirata, international director of the Kiko Network, a climate group in Japan.
Christian Aid’s global climate lead, Dr Kat Kramer, said: “Japan’s feeble and unchanged national climate commitment is an international disgrace.
“The fact they are smuggling it out during a global pandemic when it will avoid the scrutiny it deserves is shameful.”
Japan is a rich country with resources and the historic responsibility to make big strides to decarbonise its economy, she added. “Yet it has utterly failed to enhance its highly insufficient pledge, that will only compound the misery of people on the front line of the climate crisis who need countries like Japan to act with urgency to do its fair share in addressing the climate crisis.”
Emissions throughout 2019 were 4 per cent higher than those recorded in 2015, when the Paris Agreement was first negotiated. Under current levels, the world is not on track to meet the climate deal’s targets.