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Editorial: Japan blunders in not speedily ratifying Paris climate pact

  • October 11, 2016
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 13:40
  • English Press

Japan’s failure to ratify the Paris climate agreement by the time it takes effect is a major and miserable diplomatic blunder.

 

The landmark agreement to establish a new international framework for the world’s fight against global warming is now set to come into force on Nov. 4.

 

The pact represents a groundbreaking global attempt to tackle the colossal environmental challenge. It involves most countries, regardless of whether they are industrial, emerging or developing ones.

It is increasingly more likely that Japan will be unable to participate in the first meeting of the signatories to the treaty, falling behind most other major countries in committing itself to this vital effort.

 

The meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement will take place in conjunction with COP 22, or the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will be held in Marrakesh, Morocco, from Nov. 7-18.

 

To attend the meeting as a formal member, a country needs to ratify the agreement by Oct. 19. Japan has yet to start the legislative process of ratification.

 

In a belated move, the Cabinet is expected to finally endorse on Oct. 11 a bill to ratify the agreement that will be submitted for Diet approval. (The government endorsed the bill at the Cabinet meeting on the morning of Oct. 11.)

 

Given the legislative schedule, however, there is little chance for the bill to be approved by the Diet in time for the deadline.

 

The meeting of the parties is expected to launch a process of developing the rules for the implementation of the accord.

 

Japan could be left behind in the process to the detriment of its own national interests. Not only that, of the top five emitters of greenhouse gases, only Japan and Russia have not ratified the treaty. Japan could wind up being labeled as a leader of the reluctant countries.

 

It is true that few people expected the Paris Agreement to take effect in less than a year after it was adopted during the United Nations conference on climate change in December. It was believed that it would be some time before the requirement for the pact to become effective–55 countries that account for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions ratified it–was fulfilled.

 

But the outlook for the Paris Agreement improved dramatically in early September, when the United States and China, the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, ratified the pact in a radical change from their past reluctance to commit to international efforts to stem the harmful warming of this planet.

 

Their moves were immediately followed by India, the fourth-largest emitter, and European countries including France and Germany, enabling the requirement for the effectuation of the agreement to be quickly fulfilled.

 

Did the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe fail to spot signs of such a surging wave of international support for the agreement?

 

If it was unable to get wind of the impending moves of the United States, China and India, we should be seriously concerned about the government’s ability to gather information. If it decided to sit back and watch their actions despite having detected them, the government made a big mistake.

 

It was a serious mistake partly because the European Union went so far as to change the principle that all the members should simultaneously ratify such an international treaty to allow willing members to swiftly ratify the pact.

 

African countries and small island nations were also quick to ratify the agreement because they are deeply concerned about a growing number of extreme weather and climate events suspected to be linked to global warming, such as droughts, rising sea levels and heat waves.

 

Japan could be seen by such countries as “indifferent” to their plights.

 

During his policy speech at the beginning of the current extraordinary Diet session, Abe didn’t make a single reference to the Paris Agreement.

 

The situation is threatening Japan’s international stature and credibility, which have been built through strenuous diplomatic efforts over years, including those for winning support for the Kyoto Protocol, a climate agreement negotiated in the 1990s.

 

Isn’t Abe at all concerned about this prospect?

 

Japan needs to ratify the pact as soon as possible and step up its efforts to promote related international cooperation and send out stronger messages about climate issues.

All Tokyo can do now is to play catch-up through such efforts.

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