Nagano became the first prefecture to declare a climate emergency Friday, joining a growing coalition of nations, regions and local municipalities around the world in vowing to take action that reflects the urgency of the crisis.
A Climate Emergency Declaration is a nonbinding promise to act at the necessary scale and speed to reduce carbon emissions, pursue renewable resources and do everything possible to address climate change. Outside of Japan, 22 countries including the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Ireland, as well as nearly 1,200 municipalities — including New York and San Francisco — have made the declaration.
Nagano was hit by Typhoon Faxai in September and devastated by Typhoon Hagibis a month later.
Hagibis brought intense winds, heavy rain and unprecedented flooding, causing severe damage. Scientists believe the frequency and severity of such natural disasters are already being exacerbated by climate change.
Iki, Nagasaki Prefecture, made the climate emergency declaration in September and Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, followed suit less than a month later.
On Wednesday, the village of Hakuba became the first in Nagano Prefecture to make the declaration.
Japan has vowed to become carbon neutral by the end of the century and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is aiming to do so by 2050. Still, neither have declared a climate emergency.
In November, millions of protesters around the world called for decisive action against the climate crisis during the Global Climate Strike, which was inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
In Tokyo, young activists submitted a petition with more than 4,000 signatures calling on the city to declare a climate emergency. The decision to submit the petition to the metropolitan assembly was postponed after the environment committee ran out of time after a 90-minute deliberation.
According to a landmark 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global warming must be limited to 2 degrees C — 1.5 degrees to be safe — compared to pre-industrial levels to avoid altering the world’s climate beyond repair. To do so, the report said carbon emissions need to be reduced by at least 45 percent by 2030 and to zero net emissions by 2050.
“It is a welcome development that more subnational governments in Japan, including Nagano, are making public commitments to do their utmost to deal with the climate crisis, as the impacts of climate related disasters only intensifies,” said Shin Furuno, head of Asia Finance for 350.org, a U.S.-based international NGO. “It is now up to the national government and corporations to accelerate the transition away from a reliance on fossil fuels to distributed renewable energy with much more ambitious 2030 targets in line with the 1.5 C temperature goal.”