Japan will soon join the growing list of countries set to ban sales of new gasoline-engine cars. The new policy, which should be announced as soon as next week, would ban sales by the mid-2030s, encouraging instead the use of electric or hybrid cars across the country to lower the country’s carbon emissions.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga wants to accelerate the decarbonization of the automobile industry as part of the country’s climate goals. Japan has already committed to being carbon neutral by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, but questions remain on how it will accomplish this.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry will hold a meeting next week with automakers representatives to discuss the details of the policy to reduce the use of gasoline vehicles. Electric and hybrid cars currently account for about 29% of the country’s 5.2 million new registration.
Japanese manufacturer Toyota was among the first producers to popularize hybrid vehicles years ago with the Prius and now, Japanese automakers are considered the world’s top producers in the segment. Nevertheless, the domestic market for electrified vehicles has plateaued in recent years, with registrations in decline last year.
If the government moves forward with its plan, “pure gasoline vehicles will likely disappear from Japanese roads by 2050,” Satoru Yoshida, a commodities analyst at Rakuten Securities, told Bloomberg. This would lead to a decline in gasoline demand, depending on the number of hybrid cars, as they are partially based on gasoline.
Still, Yoshida said Japan will likely seek to keep hybrid vehicles on the road considering a complete halt in production of gasoline engines would negatively affect small factories and parts-suppliers. This means the transition to transportation that doesn’t rely on polluting fossil fuels might take a longer time.
Japan was the sixth-largest contributor to global greenhouse emissions in 2017, according to the International Energy Agency. Following the meltdown in Fukushima, after which the nuclear reactors were shut down, the country has struggled to reduce its carbon emissions. Its reliance on fossil fuels only increased since then.
The country has regularly received criticism for continuing to build coal-fired plants at home, as well as financing projects to build them abroad, especially in Southeast Asia. Japan currently has 140 coal-fired power plants under operation, which provide a third of its total electricity generation.
Nevertheless, Japan has taken some steps to reduce its emissions. The country’s upcoming plan for cleaner vehicles is part of a global trend of reducing sales of diesel cars. China, the largest vehicle market in the world, has already announced a plan to phase out sales of conventional by 2035. The UK also set a goal for 2030, while France and Singapore hope to achieve this by 2040.