National

Japanese organizations and officials gather in Tokyo in support of Paris climate accord

by Chisato Tanaka

Staff Writer

With an aim to facilitate the achievement of goals from the landmark 2015 Paris agreement, the Japan Action Climate Summit, organized by nonstate actors, was held Friday in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.

A total of 257 organizations and municipalities took part in the meeting to share their knowledge and incentives for tackling climate change.

“Today is a historic day in Japan’s fight against climate change. Japanese nonstate actors have stood together in support of the Paris agreement,” Takejiro Sueyoshi, a special adviser to the U.N. Environment Program Finance Initiative, said at the start of the meeting.

Attendees included members of the Japan Climate Initiative — a network of over 200 firms, local governments and nongovernmental groups that was established in July and is working to push decarbonization in the country.

The initiative was inspired by the more than 2,800 U.S. companies and state organizations that united in support of the Paris climate accord after the Trump administration stated its intention to withdraw from it.

To meet the goals contained in the agreement, which seeks to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, Japan is committed to achieving a 26 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from levels recorded in fiscal year 2013 by fiscal 2030.

At the gathering, Carl Pope, a former executive adviser to the Sierra Club and vice chairman of America’s Pledge, stated that in order to avoid natural disasters such as the recent torrential rains that fell on parts of western Japan, the country must first and foremost phase out the use of coal. “World movements of social decarbonization is the mission of Japan’s climate initiative,” Pope said.

As of March, Japan was operating more than 90 coal-fired plants and companies were planning to build 30 more to achieve a total capacity of 16,730 megawatts.

All companies pledging decarbonization echoed that the understanding of not only businesses but also consumers is imperative in helping other firms discover the benefits of renewable energy.

Hitachi Ltd. aims to slash 80 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 from 2010 levels.

However, Yukiko Araki, the executive general manager of Hitachi’s corporate social responsibility and environmental strategy division, said that since 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions come from the users of their products, it will be impossible to achieve that goal without the understanding and cooperation of their customers. “It’s really a challenge. We need to cooperate with customers and propose ways that they can use to reduce their emissions,” Araki said.

To boost awareness about decarbonization in Japan, Sony Chairman Kazuo Hirai said everyone, including children, needs to be taught about the need to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“Teaching Japanese children the importance of decarbonization at an early stage is crucial,” Hirai said. “We have to deliver the message inside and outside of the office.”

In September, Sony joined RE100 — a group in which members have to make a goal and public commitment to achieve 100 percent renewable energy use. Sony will aim to use 100 percent renewable electricity for all its business sites by 2040.

Yoshinori Yamashita, president of Ricoh Co., the first Japanese company to join RE100, said foreign clients and investors show higher levels of care and interest in the company’s environmental responsibility than Japanese consumers.

“I seldom feel that the movement has arrived in Japan, but foreign customers and investors are deeply committed to the movement,” Yamashita said.

Yamashita and other CEOs participating in the Tokyo event emphasized that, to encourage companies to commit to decarbonization, the government needs to set clear, long-term strategic goals and introduce systems that reward companies showing their commitment levels, such as by establishing carbon pricing mechanisms.

“Commitments from both government and nonstate actors are needed to achieve decarbonization,” Yamashita said.

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