Japan • At the cutting edge of technology and of the modal shift

Japan aspires to reduce its greenhouse emissions (GHG) by 26 % in 2030 compared to 2013 levels and by 25.4 % compared to 2005 levels. Japan is the only G20 member to have defined a quantified target for the transport sector, namely 27 % by 2030 compared to 2013 levels.

Publication date





Ghislain Favé • Consultant


  1. A slow decrease in emissions due to the reduction of the volume of land transport
  2. The decarbonation of the vehicle fleet led by dynamic manufacturers
  3. A dense rail network representing a growing modal share
  4. « Revitalising » Japanese cities with public and low-impact transport

Key takeaways

  1. GHG emissions from the transport sector decreased by 3.6 % in Japan between 2013 and 2018, mainly due to the 3.97 % reduction in land transport emissions. This fall in emissions can be explained by the decrease in global volume in road transport, a unique situation compared to other developed countries caused by a weak economy, advanced demographics, and an increasing modal shift to rail. (Enerdata, 2019) ;
  2. Innovation from car manufacturers and the national expansion strategy for new-generation vehicles, have helped catapult Japan into a world leader in the transport sector. However, these vehicles continue to represent just 1.2 % of the market and the impact of taxes on private vehicle ownership appears to be greater than the impact of exemptions on the purchase of electric vehicles;
  3. Japan is committing to hydrogen with an ambitious programme involving governmental and industrial actors on multiple multi-sectoral projects. For now, technical and economic uncertainties have not yet been resolved and the hydrogen production method does not generate significant CO2 gains;
  4.  High performance and constantly growing rail networks have a modal share of 33 %, the highest in the world, and are at the heart of the regional revitalisation strategy that gives financial and judicial resources to local authorities to rehabilitate them;
  5. Cycling has also become more popular in cities as it is being encouraged by an urban planning with a high commercial density. Long neglected by local and national public policies, it is once again at the heart of local authorities’ mobility strategies.