Renewing Japan’s commitment to climate change

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed disappointment at the results of the latest UN climate change conference, COP25, which ended in Madrid on Sunday. There was no strong message forcing parties to the Paris Agreement to step up their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and discussions on some of the rules for implementing the 2015 agreement. have been postponed for one year. Japan’s response to the increasingly serious challenges of climate change has also been disappointing. It has shown no willingness to revamp its own emission reduction plans or review its policy of maintaining coal as a major source of energy despite international criticism due to the climate impact.

Ahead of the conference, the United Nations Environment Program issued a stern warning that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, global temperatures will rise by up to 3.9 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, causing a catastrophic climate. effects. The Paris Agreement set a goal of containing the increase in temperature to less than 2 degrees – and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees – to avoid the devastating impact on the global climate. However, it has been clearly stated that the temperature rise will rise to 3.2 degrees even if all the countries that have signed the agreement implement their voluntary emission reduction plans. Therefore, the agreement requires signatories to regularly upgrade their plans.

So far, around 80 countries have indicated their willingness to reduce their emissions beyond what they had previously promised. However, the world’s major emitters – including the United States, which withdrew from the Paris agreement, China, Russia, India and Japan – remain silent on stepping up their emission reduction commitments. The response from major emitters remains slow even as global sentiment of crisis over climate change grows, as increasingly frequent extreme weather conditions and the devastating damage they cause are linked to rising global temperatures. As the world’s fifth-largest emitter, Japan must fulfill its duties.

In his speech at the COP25 meeting, Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi pointed out that Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions have declined over the past five consecutive years. However, Japan is struggling to improve its emissions reduction plan or even meet the commitment it made. The government’s target is to reduce Japan’s emissions by 26% from 2013 levels by 2030, and it reportedly intends to keep that target when it submits its new commitment in the Paris Agreement l ‘next year. According to media reports, the government is unable to update its plan as the restart of nuclear power plants – which it considers essential to reduce emissions because they do not emit greenhouse gases – continues to ‘be slow, which makes it difficult to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

In the 2030 energy mix as part of its basic energy plan, the government has set a target for nuclear energy representing 20-22% of electricity supply, although it is committed to minimizing dependency of the country to nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. But in 2017, nuclear power’s share of electricity supply was only 3%, compared to around 30% before the 2011 crisis.

When most of Japan’s nuclear power plants were shut down after the Fukushima disaster, power companies turned to coal and natural gas to fill the gap. And as nuclear power plant restarts continue to fall behind and the rise in renewables such as solar and wind power – which the government has also pledged to develop as much as possible – remains insufficient, Japan continues. to rely heavily on fossil fuels – especially coal, which is cheaper than other fuel sources, even though it emits more greenhouse gases. Today, coal accounts for more than 30% of Japan’s electricity supply, and power companies plan to build around 20 new coal-fired power plants. Heavy reliance on fossil fuels would cast doubt on the nation’s commitment to cut emissions by 26% by 2030.

At COP25, Japan was criticized for using coal to meet its electricity needs and for providing assistance in building new coal-fired power plants in developing countries, along with many others. industrialized economies pledge to phase out coal-fired electricity generation. Koizumi said he took UN chief Guterres’ call for phasing out coal power “as a message to Japan”, that he “acknowledges the global criticism” of the policy Japan’s coal mining policy and that further action must be taken – without indicating that Tokyo is ready to review its coal policy.

If Japan changes its dependence on coal, the government must determine whether to use nuclear power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and hesitate to improve its emissions reduction plan because the restart of inactive nuclear power plants falling behind – is the right way forward in its efforts to tackle climate change.

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