Let’s discuss the Paris climate change agreement

This week’s featured article


Japanese government officials, business leaders and environmental groups expressed regret after U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that America was withdrawing from the Paris climate change agreement, but vowed to find ways to work with the U.S. on tackling climate change.

However, there were also warnings from Japanese climate change activists that pro-fossil fuel politicians, bureaucrats and business leaders should not view Trump’s decision as an excuse to scale back Japan’s own efforts to meet the goals of the Paris agreement.

The accord, signed in 2015 by nearly 200 parties and ratified by 148, seeks to hold the increase in the global average temperature to less than 2 degrees above pre-Industrial Revolution levels, and pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees via voluntary national targets aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists conclude that failure will likely lead to dangerous, irreversible levels of climate change.

Japan ratified the Paris accord last November, and has set a national greenhouse gas reduction goal of 26 percent below 2013 levels by 2030. That target has been criticized both domestically and internationally by climatologists and activists as scientifically inadequate, though a good political start.

“America’s announcement that it is pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement is regrettable. We thought we could cooperate on climate change with the U.S. based on the agreement. Responding to the problem of climate change is a global issue, we’ll continue to work with the U.S. on the problem,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on the morning of June 2.

But some Japanese environmental activists worry that Trump has now provided a pretext for Japan’s coal and fossil fuel lobbies to pressure the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe into using more coal and oil rather than push for a low carbon society that uses more renewable energy.

“It’s possible that, using Trump’s decision as an excuse, there will be calls to relax Japan’s climate policies even though a carbon-free world has become inevitable. At the same time, this future world presents huge business opportunities. Japan’s business community should seize this opportunity to take leadership in a future carbon-free world,” said Naoyuki Yamagishi, leader of WWF Japan’s climate and energy group, in a media statement.

First published in The Japan Times on June 2.

Warm up

One-minute chat about the climate.


Collect words related to the environment, e.g., planet, ecology, global warming.

New words

1) withdraw: to pull out of, e.g., “She will withdraw from the competition.”

2) bureaucrat: a person with an official position in the government, e.g., “He works as a bureaucrat in Kasumigaseki.”

3) ratify: to formally approve, e.g., “Japan ratified the trade agreement.”

4) inadequate: not sufficient, e.g., “The information given to us was inadequate. ”

Guess the headline

Japan disa_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ by Trump’s decision to quit Paris a_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


1) What does the Paris agreement hope to achieve?

2) How many parties have signed up to the agreement?

3) What are some Japanese environmental activist worried about?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you think about Trump’s decision?

2) Do you expect Japan to keep working to meet its targets under the Paris agreement or will it relax its climate policies?

3) What do you think of Japan’s energy policy?


アメリカという大国が国際的な取り組みから抜けることは一大事であり、今回の正式な パリ協定からの離脱表明は関係各国に相当な衝撃と混乱を与えたようです。

環境問題は深刻であるという認識はほぼ国際的な常識として捉えられているため、 日本政府が懸念を表明することは誰もが 想定していたことでしょうが、内心ではこれをチャンスと考えている関係者もいるのでしょうか。




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