Japan’s transport sector relies almost entirely on oil to meet its energy demand (97%). The sector is the least diversified in terms of energy mix and has the greatest reliance (relative to total consumption) on imported fossil fuels. In terms of energy related CO₂ emissions, as of 2019, passenger and freight transport accounted for 59% and 41% of the total, respectively.
Under the country’s 5th Strategic Energy Plan, this sector is envisioned to achieve an almost 20% reduction in energy consumption from 2018 levels by 2030. In terms of GHG emissions, a reduction of 35% from 2013 levels by 2030 is included as part of the country’s NDC (reaching an absolute level of 146 MtCO₂e in the latter year).
At present, Japan is one of three countries globally with a target for 100% electrified vehicles in new car sales. The country aims to meet this target by 2035., This target includes hybrid electric vehicles. As of 2018, hybrid vehicles make up around 33% of new vehicle sales. The country’s automotive industry strategy sees a substantial increase in battery electric and plug-in hybrid market share to 2030, with hybrid electric share staying around 2018 levels. By 2050, Japan aims to achieve an 80% reduction in GHG emissions (compared to 2010 levels) per vehicle in the domestic automotive industry.
Apart from efforts to reduce emissions from passenger vehicles, Japan has initiated programmes to promote a modal shift from truck to rail in freight transport, and a shift from passenger vehicles to public transport and cycling. The government also sees maritime shipping as playing a pivotal role in their hydrogen strategy, both for transportation and utilisation of the fuel. While the strategy includes both hydrogen produced from fossil fuels with CCS and from renewable energy, only use of the latter would be effective in reducing emissions in line with the 1.5°C pathways.
The 1.5°C pathways are generally characterised by a reduction in energy demand of about 20% from 2019 levels by 2030 followed by fuel switching from oil to a combination of electricity, hydrogen, and in some cases, biofuels. Electricity’s share in the sector increases from 2% in 2019 to 12-25% by 2030 and 45-71% by 2050. Hydrogen and biofuels also see a significant ramp-up. Fuel switching leads to direct CO₂ emissions from energy demand of the sector, 201 MtCO₂ in 2019 based on IEA data, falling by 42-55% by 2030 and 92-94% by 2050. Emissions of energy demand in the transport sector reach net zero between 2053-2057.
In electrifying the transport sector, it is important to consider the emissions from power generation. Accordingly, Japan’s strategy for this sector focuses on a shift from “tank-to-wheel” to “well-to wheel” emissions intensity reduction, meaning that the entire lifecycle of fuel production, transport, and distribution will be considered in establishing emissions standards.