Young people in 117 countries on Friday called on policymakers to take overdue steps against climate change as part of a global strike just days ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit set to begin in New York on Monday.
Affiliated events organized across Japan on Friday drew more than 5,000 participants, the organizers said. In Tokyo, some 2,800 students and environmental activists called on the city to revise its carbon emission reduction goals. They also called on recently appointed Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi to show leadership at the U.N. summit and pursue ambitious policies to protect future generations.
“Disasters caused by climate change are worsening every year,” said 16-year-old activist Saori Iwano, a member of Fridays For Future Tokyo, at a news conference on Wednesday. The student environmental group helped organize the march in Tokyo.
“How many tens of millions of people will have lost their homes by 2050?” she said. “What will be left in the year 2100? Our lives, with our families and our loved ones and our future, are being threatened by the climate crisis.”
According to a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, greenhouse gas emissions would have to be reduced by 45 percent by 2030, relative to 2010 levels, to avoid raising the average global temperature by 1.5 degrees Celsius. Failure to do so would see an increase in extreme temperatures and more frequent and intense episodes of heavy rain and drought, according to the IPCC.
In comparison, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is aiming to reduce emissions by 30 percent from 2000 levels by 2030. The students say this simply isn’t good enough, calling on Tokyo to take more ambitious steps to reduce emissions.
They are also asking Tokyo to join a growing number of national, regional and metropolitan governments around the world in declaring a climate emergency — a step so far taken by 18 countries and 985 regional municipalities, including New York City and San Francisco.
Japan is lagging behind in that movement, said FFF co-founder Hiroto Inoue.
“Friends of the same generation, let alone adults, don’t understand what we’re trying to do,” Inoue said. “We raise our voices but society won’t listen.”
“Something can be said for the low awareness of social issues in general among the Japanese public,” said Takuro Kajiwara, 18, a student member of FFF. “Japan has enjoyed affluence after many years of economic growth. Geographically it’s isolated as an island nation, ethnically its homogeneous, and so the world is less visible from where Japan stands.”
Koizumi, the newlywed 38-year-old environment minister who was appointed to his first Cabinet post earlier this month, is expecting a child next year. This and his relative youth give the students some hope that Koizumi will advocate for younger generations and reconsider the relationship between climate change and economic growth in Japan.
FFF sent Koizumi an invitation to the march on Friday but the minister did not respond.
“We do not have the right to vote. We do not have money, power or scientific or expert knowledge. That is why we need the help of adults,” Iwano said. “The climate crisis renders age and occupation irrelevant. What is being asked of you is what you can do as an individual.”