The 20th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP20) held in Lima in December set an informal deadline of March 31 for countries to submit their plans for curbing greenhouse gas emissions in and after 2020 — to be finalized at COP21 in Paris at the end of this year. Not much time is left and Japan needs to make utmost efforts to submit its plan in time.
Although 196 countries and regions that took part in COP20 made some progress in laying the basis for the global framework for future emissions reduction efforts, the agreement that emerged from the meeting does not impose strict conditions on what individual countries’ plans should be like.
Japan, whose performance in emissions cuts could be described as less than satisfactory in recent years, should not take advantage of this to present an unambitious plan.
One important piece of progress in the Lima conference was an agreement that all countries, including both developed and developing economies, work out and submit their plans to cut emissions beyond 2020. It was a laudable departure from the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, which required only the developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
An encouraging sign is that China and the United States, the world’s largest and the second-largest emitter, respectively, jointly announced in November their plans to cut the greenhouse gas output.
The U.S. had failed to ratify the Kyoto treaty, and China, under the treaty, had no obligation to cut its emissions in the first place.
China said it will start capping its emissions around 2030, while the U.S. pledged to reduce its emissions to levels 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
But the COP20 accord includes a point that may make the global efforts to curb emissions ineffective — the lack of a mechanism to evaluate individual countries’ plans — termed “intended nationally determined contributions” — and compare them.
If the plans by individual countries come up short, it will become extremely difficult to achieve an international goal of limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Japan and other countries should pay serious attention to the fact that 2014 was the hottest year in the history of meteorological observation, as well as to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s November report that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at the present rate, temperatures could rise by up to 4.8 degrees and the sea level could shoot up by 82 cm by the end of this century from levels by the end of the 20th century, causing “irreversible” havoc to the global environment.
Developed nations, which emit large amounts of greenhouse gases but have ample funds and technologies, need to play a leading role in the efforts to fight global warming. Government officials should seriously note that Japan is not seen as making due contributions to the efforts.
By contrast, the European Union has decided to have its member countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions to levels 40 percent below their 1990 levels by 2030.
Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions have been on the increase since fiscal 2009 and hit a record 1.395 billion tons (as converted into carbon dioxide) in fiscal 2013.
While Japan is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, there seems at present no prospect that Tokyo can submit its emissions cut plan before the March deadline. Officials explain that this is because Japan cannot at this point determine how much weight nuclear power will have in the country’s future energy supply.
Japan could lose international trust in its efforts to curb global warming if it fails to meet the deadline or presents only a weak reduction plan. Nuclear power generation is only a part of the means to combat warming. Japan should move fast to create programs to advance energy-saving technologies and the use of renewable energies so that it can set a viable and convincing plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions without relying on nuclear power.
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