Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Japan
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Japan. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
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Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Japan
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Japan. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
Loading reading time...
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Japan
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Japan. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
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What percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions does Japan produce?

Japan produced 2.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 (the latest date with complete emissions data). This amounted to 1.09bn metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MtCO₂e. These emissions represented a decrease from 2019 by -5.4%.

In the period from 1990 to 2020 their emissions have decreased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -0.26% and Japan has contributed 3.3% of global greenhouse emissions.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in USD$4.94tr
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 20201.09bn
Change in Emissions since 2019-5.4%
Percentage of Total Emissions (2020)2.4%
Rank – Emitters in 20205
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 199038.8bn
Compound Annual Growth – Emissions since 1990-0.26%
Percentage of Total Emissions (1990-2020)3.3%
GDP Per Capita (USD)$39.3k
Emissions Per Capita8.7

In 2020, Japan was the world’s 5th largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. The largest emitters in the same period were China, the United States, India and Russia.

Emissions per capita in Japan – average household carbon footprint

The population of Japan is 126m. On a per capita basis, they produce 8.7 tonnes of CO2e per person, placing them 36th out of 191 on emissions produced per capita. The biggest per capita emitters are Qatar, Turkmenistan, Kuwait and Bahrain.

What is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Japan?


92.6% of emissions in Japan came from Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 2.4% came from Methane (CH4), and 1.7% came from Nitrous Oxide (N2O).


The sector that produced the most emissions in 2020 was the energy industry, producing 1bn of GHG emissions, constituting 91.8% of total.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were industrial processes and bunker fuels, producing 5.6% and 2.3% of total GHG in Japan.


The industry that produced the most energy related emissions was the electricity/heat industry, producing 517m of GHG emissions, constituting 47.2% of total emissions.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were transportation and manufacturing/construction, emitting 186m and 171m tonnes of GHG each.

Land Use Change and Forestry

Land use change and forestry (LUCF), such as deforestation and conversion of natural ecosystems to agricultural or urban areas, can have a significant impact on carbon emissions.

  • Trees and other vegetation absorb and store carbon through the process of photosynthesis, and when they are cut down or burned, that stored carbon is released into the atmosphere.
  • Deforestation and other forms of land use change can also reduce the ability of ecosystems to absorb and store carbon in the future. Additionally, the conversion of land for agriculture or urban development can lead to the release of carbon stored in the soil.
  • On the other hand, sustainable forestry practices, such as reforestation and afforestation, can help to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in trees and other vegetation.

In the case of Japan, LUCF had a positive impact on Japan’s emissions, decreasing their carbon footprint by 31.8m tonnes.

After accounting for land use change and forestry, the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions in Japan in 2020 was 1.06bn metric tonnes.

How vulnerable is Japan to the impact of climate change?

The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) Index

The ND-GAIN Index measures countries’ vulnerability to global challenges, including climate change, and their readiness to improve resilience.

Japan scores 65.6 on the ND-Gain Index and is classified in the ‘low vulnerability and high readiness’ category of climate change preparedness.

The index aims to assist businesses, governments, and communities in prioritising investments for a more efficient response to global shifts.

It is measured by combining two main components:

  1. Vulnerability: This evaluates a country’s vulnerability to environmental risks and its ability to adapt. It considers health, food and water availability, infrastructure, and ecosystem services. A higher score indicates greater vulnerability to environmental challenges.
  2. Readiness: This measures how well a country can leverage investments to mitigate climate change. It considers economic stability, governance, technology, and infrastructure. A higher score means a country is better prepared to implement resilience strategies.

This ranking helps identify areas where resources and adaptation strategies can be most effectively directed to mitigate risks and enhance resilience.

By combining these dimensions, the index provides a comprehensive approach to measuring countries’ ability to cope with the impacts of climate change.

Low vulnerability and high readiness in Japan

In terms of readiness to adapt to climate change, Japan ranks in the top 10% group. Globally, the average readiness score is 0.424, with Japan posting a score of 0.69.

They show the greatest strength in governance aspects, while their performance in economic aspects requires improvement.

  • Governance readiness refers to the political, legal, and regulatory aspects influencing a country’s adaptation to climate change, including stability, corruption control, and law enforcement.
  • Economic readiness refers to the business environment and its capacity to adapt to climate change, emphasizing the importance of a supportive regulatory framework for adaptation initiatives.

Regarding vulnerability to climate change, Japan falls into the below average category. Compared to the global average vulnerability score of 0.431, Japan has a score of 0.378.

Their resilience is most notable in health areas, yet they face significant challenges in habitat.

  • Health vulnerability refers to the impact of climate change on diseases and medical resources. Innovations can enhance resilience to vulnerabilities affecting human health through food, water insecurity, and extreme weather events.
  • Human habitat refers to the growth of cities and their capacity to withstand climate change impacts like floods and heatwaves. Improved infrastructure enhances urban resilience to extreme weather events.

The formula to calculate the ND-GAIN Index is

GAIN Index=(Readiness Indicators−Vulnerability Indicators+1)×50GAIN Index=(Readiness Indicators−Vulnerability Indicators+1)×50

In this formula:

  • The Readiness Indicators are measured on a scale of 0 to 1, where a higher score means that the readiness is better.
  • The Vulnerability Indicators are also measured on a scale of 0 to 1, but a lower score indicates better vulnerability in this case. 
  • The difference between the Readiness and Vulnerability scores is calculated and then incremented by 1. 
  • Finally, the result is multiplied by 50 to convert the GAIN Index score to a range of 0-100, where a higher score means the situation is better.

Is there a correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth in Japan?

In 2020, the gross domestic product (GDP) in Japan declined by -1.6% from the previous year, with the economy moving from $5.12tr to $5.04tr. During the same period, carbon emissions decreased by -5.4%. Over the ten-year period from 2010 to 2020, GDP declined -12.5%, while emissions decreased by -11.4%.

To put this into context, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of GDP in Japan over the past ten years was -1.3%, and the CAGR for greenhouse gas emissions was -1.2%.


World Resources Institute, 2022. Climate Watch Historical GHG Emissions. [online] Washington, DC. Available at:

Global Carbon Project, 2023. Supplemental data of Global Carbon Budget 2023 (Version 1.1) [Data set]. Global Carbon Project. Available at:

UNFCCC, 2023. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data. [online] Available at:

Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative, 2023. ND-GAIN Country Index. [online] Available at:

FAO, 2022. Land-Use Change and Forestry or Agriculture indicators from FAOSTAT Emissions Database. [online] Available at:

OECD/IEA, 2022. CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion. [online] Available at:

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