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Japan losing chance to influence Paris climate accord

  • October 7, 2016
  • , Nikkei Asian Review , 5:45 a.m.
  • English Press

Yasuo Takeuchi, Nikkei staff writer

 

Japan’s window for shaping crucial details of a historic climate change pact is closing after the country was slow to begin work on ratification while the U.S. and China signed off on the deal unexpectedly quickly.

 

The Paris Agreement needed ratification by at least 55 nations totaling 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions in order to take effect. As of Wednesday, 74 countries responsible for 58.82% of emissions have ratified the deal, according to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The treaty is now set to take effect Nov. 4, less than a year after it was adopted in December 2015.

 

UNFCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa issued a statement Wednesday congratulating nations for bringing the accord into force, and she urged the “development of a rule book to operationalize the agreement.”

 

Fast action

 

The Paris deal initially was expected to take effect around 2018, but the tide turned when the U.S. and China both ratified it Sept. 3.

 

U.S. President Barack Obama wanted to solidify his legacy before his term ends in January. Washington also wished to eliminate the risk of presidential candidate Donald Trump backing out of the pact should he win the election. Once the Paris accord takes effect, parties must wait three years before they can give a one-year notice to leave.

 

China had nothing to lose, as its goal of reaching peak emissions by about 2030 is relatively easy to achieve, and the climate deal was among the few areas of agreement between Beijing and Washington.

 

The European Union was caught off guard by the U.S. and China. To save face, the bloc took the unusual move of ratifying the deal before each member country signed off individually, lifting the Paris accord over the threshold needed to take effect.

 

No voice

 

Countries that have ratified the agreement will meet on the sidelines of the next U.N. climate conference, called COP 22, set for Nov. 7-18 in Morocco to iron out the details of the framework.

 

Japan’s cabinet is expected to finalize a bill as early as Tuesday to submit to the Diet, but the nation is highly unlikely to complete the ratification process by Oct. 19, the deadline for participating in the Morocco talks. Japan could observe the meeting but would be unable to comment, even if it disagrees with the reduction goals being discussed.

 

The Paris Agreement has some distance to go before it becomes an effective framework against climate change. The treaty aims to keep the increase in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels. But the temperatures will rise at least 2.7 degrees by 2100 even if all countries meet their current emissions targets. Also, clear guidelines are lacking on how to build on those targets when they are updated every five years.

 

To get as many countries as possible on board, the climate deal lets each party decide its own target and imposes no penalties on those that fall short. Future negotiations will determine whether the Paris Agreement ends up having teeth.

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