By Erika Thi Patterson
Last summer, Japan’s government was set to phase out the sale of polluting combustion engine vehicles by 2035—a few months before California made that historic commitment.
But at the last minute, Akio Toyoda, then the CEO of Toyota Motor Company, met with the leadership of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and intervened to ensure that the government did not fully ban fossil-fueled cars.
Toyota Motor Company has interfered with similar policymaking in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom. It backed off of a threat to end all manufacturing in the UK over the country’s EV policy only after the media exposed the tactic.
Given Toyota’s opposition to climate action and its influence on the Japanese government, Public Citizen is watching this month’s G7 summit closely.
The G7 Summit convenes leaders of the world’s richest nations—France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy, and Canada, and the European Union—for the stated goal of jointly tackling global issues such as climate change, public health, food systems, and economic security.
Previous G7 Summits have been panned as “failures” and mere photo opps by advocates. Frankly, they may not amount to much more if the G7 leaders aren’t held accountable for the pledges they make to the international community.
This year, Japan is hosting the G7 Summit in Hiroshima. During last year’s summit, Japan’s Minister of the Environment, Nishimura Akihiro, acknowledged that, “to limit global warming levels to 1.5˚C, global emissions, including emissions from Japan, need to be significantly reduced” and stated that “Japan will lead the international community towards achieving global decarbonization.”
But Japan’s climate commitments are undermined by its largest automaker, Toyota Motor Corp., which has been disrupting efforts to cut emissions at home and abroad. Toyota has not only refused to ditch fossil-fuel powered cars for zero-emission vehicles on a timeline consistent with science-based climate targets, or even the least ambitious climate targets of G7 nations, but it was also ranked the automaker with the worst impact on climate policy globally for two years running.
Japan cannot credibly claim it is leading the international community towards global decarbonization while acquiescing to Toyota’s efforts to delay Japan’s EV transition. We won’t meet climate targets without swiftly phasing out gas-powered vehicles, including hybrids. Toyota’s lobbying against other countries’ efforts to decarbonize and slash emissions, including in G7 nations like the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, also reflects poorly on Japan.
Tell the Japan government to demand that Toyota get with the climate program. As the world’s largest automaker, Toyota has the power to shift the industry toward a fossil-fuel free future.
It’s critical that Japan knows that the international community is watching its actions at this event. Toyota must not interfere in yet another political process that has the potential to make great strides for global climate commitments.
Japan must honor its commitments to the international community by signaling to its largest automaker that it’s time to end production of fossil-fueled vehicles globally by 2035, end its lobbying against EVs globally, and commit to only producing zero emission EVs built with fossil-free, equitable, and responsible supply chains that protect labor and human rights. This would demonstrate true leadership towards achieving global decarbonization.