By Katori Keisuke, Kamiyama Junichi, and Nagasaki Junichiro
On Oct. 9, students at Hamamatsu Kaiseikan Junior and Senior High School in Shizuoka Prefecture held an online event for the purpose of getting politicians to listen to the voices of young people about the climate crisis.
In August last year, the temperature in Hamamatsu City rose to 41.1 degrees Celsius, the highest on record in Japan. Students at Hamamatsu Kaiseikan find that it is harder every year to hold summer outdoor club activities due to high temperatures.
In October of last year the government of Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide vowed to achieve a carbon neutral (net zero carbon emissions) society in 2050. It submitted a resolution to the UN to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 46% by fiscal 2030 compared with fiscal 2013.
But politicians have not clearly stated their thoughts on the climate crisis ahead of the Lower House election on Oct. 31. The students sent questionnaires to nine major political parties and received replies from eight.
The questionnaires asked the parties (a) how they evaluate the 46% reduction target, (b) what they think are effective measures to reduce CO2 emissions, and (c) what they are doing to address the climate crisis. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner, Komeito, described the 46% reduction target as “ambitious.” Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) insisted on the need for technical innovation and job creation to prevent excessive regulation from causing the outflow of industries. On the other hand, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) and the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) took a stance that the reduction target is insufficient. The CDPJ suggested that Japan should aim to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 55% while the JCP said the target should be a cut of 50-60%.
A sophomore at Hamamatsu Kaiseikan was disappointed by the results of the questionnaires because all of the efforts made by the parties and their members have already been done at his school, including reducing the use of paper and plastic bottles. The student said, “We want adults and lawmakers to address the climate issue on a scale that can be only achieved by them.” Another male student said: “Technology creates the future. We want politicians to support the creation of new technologies.”
On Oct. 17, Fridays For Future Japan held a public forum by inviting policy affairs chiefs of various parties. Kadoya Kodama, a 15-year-old girl who participated in the event, said: “We can change our future if we can change politics. We don’t want to die because of climate change.”
The “Youth Climate Conference” has been launched in Japan. One hundred and eight participants between the ages of 13 and 39 held discussions for ten weeks starting in May. They drew up a set of policy proposals consisting of 70 items, including a shift to a 100% renewable energy society, the indication of carbon footprints, and the establishment of a citizens’ climate conference, and handed it to the LDP, the CDPJ, the economy and environment ministries, and the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren).
One Japanese youth is taking a legal action. Erina, a 25-year-old who lives in Osaka, participated in a meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP) as a youth representative while she was studying in Germany. She was surprised to learn that a civic group in Southeast Asia was protesting Japan’s reliance on coal power generation.
After returning to Japan, she learned about a plan to expand a coal power plant near the university she attended. So she joined a plaintiff group in an administrative suit against the flawed environment assessment by the government that gave the greenlight to the expansion of the plant. (Abridged)