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Japan's green stocks climb as Suga vows to fight climate change

Renewable energy benefits after environment summit, while steel and mining slump

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has unveiled ambitious carbon-cutting goals for the country. (Nikkei montage/AP/Reuters)

TOKYO -- Shares in renewable energy and other climate-related companies rose in Tokyo on Friday following the Japanese government's pledge to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Renova, an operator and developer of renewable power plants, closed up 4% amid expectations that policies for tackling climate change will gain momentum.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced on Thursday a goal of reducing Japan's emissions by 46% in 2030 from its levels in 2013, compared to the previous target of a 26% reduction.

Suga, who was attending a virtual climate summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden, said: "We want to lead the world in public opinion by defining a top-level, ambitious goal."

On Friday, shares in West Holdings, a Japanese solar power company, rose 1.7%. NPC, which operates a solar power generation business, saw its stock price jump 2%.

Money managers have put increasing emphasis on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in their investment decision-making process.

A survey of U.K.-based investors by investment manager OnePlanetCapital found that over one in 10 (12%) planned to move investments to ESG-related funds in 2021.

In Japan, Nippon Life Insurance, one of the country's biggest private institutional investors, aims to achieve net-zero emissions for companies in its stock and bond portfolios by 2050.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange has also vowed to push companies to tackle climate change. New exchange chief Hiromi Yamaji told Nikkei that a market reorganization scheduled for next April will encourage companies to adopt more robust ESG initiatives. Those listed on the top-tier Prime market, for example, will be expected to raise their disclosure standards, including reporting on climate change risks.

In the last year, the coronavirus pandemic has been a major factor driving green investments. A recent survey by MSCI revealed that almost 80% of investors in the Asia-Pacific region increased ESG investments "significantly" or "moderately" in response to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, stocks in the steel industry, as well as the oil and gas sector, weakened on Friday.

Nippon Steel's stock price fell 2.6%, while shares in Kobe Steel declined over 1%. Japanese oil company Inpex fell almost 1%.

In Hong Kong, shares in PetroChina and Zhaojin Mining Industry fell.

During the climate summit on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country would begin phasing out coal use from 2026 in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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