National / Politics

G-7 leaders reaffirm commitment to adopting Paris Agreement

by Tomohiro Osaki and Yosuke Naito

Staff Writers

The Group of Seven industrial powers reaffirmed their commitment Friday to swift ratification and entry into force of last year’s landmark Paris climate pact, while Japan managed to keep the Fukushima nuclear disaster from taking center stage.

The Paris Agreement struck last December at the COP21 climate conference seeks to limit a rise in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius. It is described by the European Commission as “the first-ever universal, legally binding” global climate framework.

“The G-7, continuing to take a leadership role, commits to taking the necessary steps to secure ratification, acceptance or approval of the Paris Agreement as soon as possible, and calls on all Parties to do so striving for a goal of entry into force in 2016,” the leaders said in a communique as the two-day G-7 summit at the Ise-Shima resort in Mie Prefecture drew to a close.

With the significance of the Paris deal in mind, the leaders said they will also strive to encourage the use of clean energy, invest more aggressively in energy technologies and accelerate efforts toward making the transition to an energy system that enables de-carbonization of the global economy.

Despite being one of the global front-runners in clean energy technology development, the promotion of this sector by Japan may sound hollow since it has relied heavily on fossil fuels rather than renewables since the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns.

Recently, Japan has been promoting the use of liquefied natural gas, highlighting the fact that natural gas releases less than 60 percent of the carbon dioxide released by coal when burned. Scientists, however, say LNG is merely “less bad” than coal and oil.

Japan’s LNG imports since the Fukushima crisis have soared, making it a contributing factor in tipping its trade balance into the red.

At the Ise-Shima summit, Japan successfully avoided being singled out for criticism over climate and energy issues.

During a session on climate change Friday morning, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who chaired the G-7 meeting, kept off the agenda Japan’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

Also, Abe successfully led his counterparts to endorse the cleanup efforts of Tokyo Electric Power Holdings Inc., the embattled operator of the Fukushima plant.

“We welcome the steady progress on decommissioning and treatment of contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, and Japan’s efforts to proceed in an open and transparent manner in close communication with the international community, towards developing accurate global understanding of the situation in Fukushima,” the leaders said in the statement.

Friday’s agreement followed an outcry by environmental nongovernmental organizations against major industrial powers for their lack of real action on climate change.

On the sidelines of the summit talks, the NGOs on Thursday urged the G-7 leaders to work toward reducing fossil fuels.

They accused Japan of being the “worst offender” among developed countries when it came to investing in international coal-related projects.

Despite the comments, there were few visible protests near the venue as a result of tight security and the difficulty in accessing the remote Ise-Shima area, which is situated on the coastal tip of Mie Prefecture.