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Editorial: Japan will be left behind at COP 21 in Paris

  • 2015-11-30 15:00:00
  • , Tokyo Shimbun
  • Translation

(Tokyo Shimbun: November 30, 2015 – p. 5)


 Syria suffered a record drought from 2006 through 2010 on account of a decrease in rainfall brought about by climate change.


 Farmland was devastated and farmers lost livestock. The number of Syrian farmers who became refugees has reportedly reached 1.5 million.


 Natural disasters such as an enormous hurricane hit the low-income class harder, which widens social disparity. Global warming is now a source of global social unrest.


 The World Bank announced at the beginning of this month its estimate that unless appropriate measures to prevent global warming are taken by 2030, the impoverished class will increase by more than 100 million. There is a growing sense of crisis in the global community.


 The U.S. government will not be able to make major policy decisions next year because of the presidential election. Unless participating countries come to an agreement in the Paris conference, rule-making will significantly fall behind.


 Unlike the Kyoto Protocol that assigned advanced countries a numerical quota for greenhouse gas reduction, the Paris conference will aim to reach an agreement based on “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDECs) (the target plan)” voluntarily submitted by each country.


 Unable to reach the target temperature


 How much will greenhouse gases be reduced and by when? Setting the goal is left to the judgment of each participating country. The countries will monitor and evaluate one another’s progress and results toward the accomplishment of the goal.


 About 180 nations and regions have announced their goals so far. They include China, the U.S. and India, the largest, second largest, and third largest emitters of greenhouse gases, respectively, and oil producers such as Saudi Arabia.


 This means that countries and regions that account for more than 90% of the total gas emissions have decided to participate in new rule making to combat global warming.


 It is still undecided whether the new rules will be called a protocol or agreement. Either way, a written agreement will be adopted with legal binding force.


 However, even if all the INDECs are added up, it will not yet mean achievement of “the Two-Degree Target.”


 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) keeps warning that unless the average global temperature rise is kept below two degrees compared with the end of the 19th century, when industrialization began, it will have an irreparably negative affect on life, society, and economic activity on earth.


 The voluntary targets will probably be reviewed once in five years. Without a system that incrementally raises the voluntary target of each country, the significance of “the historic agreement” will be diminished.


 Japan’s INDEC for the FY 2030 is 26% below the baseline of FY 2013. The international community does not give Japan’s target high marks.


 As a leader of the developing countries, China has stood at the forefront of opposing mandatory emission reductions. However, Beijing launched a policy to shift to a “low carbon economy” in the U.S.-China joint statement in September. China will reportedly reduce public investment in companies that emit a large amount of carbon dioxide (CO2).


 Furthermore, China will set an upper limit for CO2 emissions in major industries such as power generation and iron manufacture the year after next and introduce the cap and trade system in which emissions allowances are traded under an overall cap on emissions.


 On the other hand, Japan has pushed forward the new construction of coal-fired power plants, a large source of CO2 emissions, under the pretext of the suspension of nuclear plants and is eagerly trying to export its technology to developing countries.


 In the meantime, the Japanese government seems to have slowed down the expansion of renewable energy as requested by electric power companies, which argue that the spread of renewable energy will hinder stable power supply. Tokyo is going in the wrong direction.


 CO2 can be reduced with zero nuclear power plants


 The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) did not regard Japan’s high-efficiency coal-fired thermal power technology as a measure to prevent global warming.


 Despite the shutdown of all nuclear power plants in Japan, last year’s total emission of greenhouse gases was less than that of the previous year for the first time in five years. This is because energy conservation and renewable energy have spread on account of the suspension of operations at nuclear plants, which reportedly led to the reduction of CO2 from power generation.


 Shouldn’t Japan emphasize this fact and the direction in the Paris’ conference?


 The adoption of the Paris agreement will again signal to the international community the arrival of an era of renewable energy.


 If Japan persists in its present stance, it alone will be bucking the global trend.

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