National

Japan gets mixed assessment from U.N. over efforts to curb greenhouse gases

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

The United Nations warned Tuesday that current national commitments to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to meet a 2030 reduction goal, and that unprecedented and urgent action is required by all nations — especially from members of the Group of 20 — to ensure global warming stays well below 2.0 to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In its annual update on the global emissions gap, the United Nations Environment Program said only three G20 nations including Japan were on track to meet their nationally determined contribution targets under their current policies to reduce carbon emissions by 2020.

Japan, which accounted for 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions last year, has committed to reducing its emissions by 3.8 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 26 percent below 2013 levels by 2030. But the nation is only currently predicted to achieve a 7.5 percent decrease in emissions by 2030, the report added.

To cap global warming at 2.0 C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), national carbon-cutting pledges annexed to the 2015 Paris Agreement must collectively triple by 2030, according to the report. Based on current trends and policies, temperatures are on track to rise roughly 4 C by the century’s end — well past a global “tipping point” that could see unprecedented storms, draughts, and the extinction of many species.

The U.N. report was released on the eve of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, which begins Friday and where climate change and agricultural production are expected to be discussed. The release also comes ahead of U.N. climate talks starting next week in Katowice, Poland. Given the urgency of reducing emissions and capping global warming to 2.0 C — and, more ideally, 1.5 C — the role of so-called nonstate actors, especially the private sector and local governments, in setting their own decarbonization policies is now key to implementing greenhouse gas reduction goals, the report said. The report did note, however, that the impacts of such measures are limited and uncertain, and that nonstate actors around the world need to adopt common principles when formulating their actions.

In July, to help meet or surpass the goals of the Paris agreement at the local level and in the private sector in Japan, the Japan Climate Initiative was formed.

In a telephone news conference with journalists Thursday night, Eri Nakajima, vice governor of Nagano Prefecture and a representative of the JCI, noted that the group consists of 300 local governments, private sector partners, research institutions, and NGOs and that many members, like Nagano, were formulating decarbonization policies that were far more ambitious than the national government’s efforts.

“After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, we in Nagano realized the limits of a centralized, fossil fuel-based energy system. So we established a sustainable energy strategy that set a goal of greenhouse gas emission reductions of 30 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels,” Nakajima said. “This strategy also covers local policy measures, such as the promotion of increased efficiency in renewable energy.”

That said, she added that in the case of Nagano the promotion of certain types have renewables have brought a new set of complaints.

“We’re increasing renewable projects in Nagano. But environmental groups are protesting because some big companies have cut down forests to develop large scale mega-solar energy projects,” she said. “This kind of balance between biodiversity, and nature conservation and decarbonization is very important.”