Commentary / Japan

Japan's action plan to fight climate change

by Atsuyuki Oike

Special To The Japan Times

2015 will be a milestone year for climate change action. The international community is moving toward a new framework on climate change to be agreed on at the Paris Climate Conference in December. However, reaching assent on this potentially historic agreement will not be straightforward.

Japan takes the position that the new framework needs to be fair, effective and applicable to all parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. We believe that all parties should be obliged to submit greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, to take measures aiming to achieve them, and to report and to be reviewed on their implementation. In this respect, I would like to explain Japan’s efforts to tackle climate change and emissions.

The earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident of 2011 drastically changed Japan’s energy situation. Despite facing immense challenges, the nation managed to achieve the highest level of energy efficiency in the world and continue to pursue further measures to cut emissions. At the Group of Seven summit in June, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated Japan’s strong commitment to emissions reductions.

Japan has now laid out its own national target for greenhouse gas emission reductions post-2020. The target, known as “Intended nationally determined contribution” (INDC) was submitted on July 17 and formalized Japan’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent from the 2013 level (25.4 percent from the 2005 level) by 2030. Japan’s ambitious INDC signals its determination to lead the way for the reduction of emissions globally.

Japan’s INDC was crafted by summing up specific measures and advanced technologies that can be utilized. This makes it more transparent and concrete. Japan’s energy consumption per unit of GDP is currently about 30 percent lower than the average of other G-7 nations, making it one of the top performers globally. We will aim for a further 35 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2030, by which time greenhouse gas emissions per GDP are projected to improve by around 40 percent. Japan also intends to accelerate introduction of renewable energy, with a sevenfold increase in solar power and a fourfold increase in wind and geothermal.

At the 2010 Cancun Climate Conference in Mexico it was agreed that, by 2020, developed countries would jointly mobilize $100 billion per year from public and private sources to assist developing countries in tackling climate change. Japan has been providing significant support in this regard, with approximately $20 billion worth of climate finance provided for developing countries in 2013-2014.

Japan also confirmed its contribution of $1.5 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in May, despite the severe fiscal constraints we face. This contribution has enabled the fund to start its preparations to support developing countries. It is essential to implement support through the GCF as soon as possible particularly to those countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as the least developed countries, small island developing states, and countries in Africa.

Innovation plays a key role in tackling climate change, particularly in the development of low-carbon technology. Japan will host the 2nd Innovation for Cool Earth Forum (ICEF) in October. ICEF was launched by Abe in 2014 to provide a global platform for promoting discussion and cooperation among world leaders, industry representatives, academia and policymakers. This multi-faceted approach is necessary to help understand how innovations in energy and environmental technologies can offer climate change solutions.

Japan will further promote the Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM), which facilitates the use of advanced low-carbon technologies in developing countries. To date, 14 countries have participated in this mechanism and six projects have been registered as JCM projects in Indonesia, Palau and Mongolia (including five energy-saving projects and one renewable project). Japan will continue its contribution to the reduction of global emissions through the steady implementation of this mechanism.

Japan has been able to contribute to global emission reductions in part through the diffusion of cutting-edge technology. For example, techniques that have been developed and applied in Japan’s iron and steel mills have contributed to a reduction of 50 million tons of carbon dioxide per year on a worldwide scale. It is essential to further promote such initiatives across the private sector, and to explore how official development assistance and public finances can bolster such initiatives.

An international framework to be adopted at the Paris Climate Change Conference is crucial in tackling climate change effectively. Although we expect tough and difficult negotiations on the road to Paris, Japan will continue to cooperate with other countries in working toward this framework.

Atsuyuki Oike is director general for global issues at the Foreign Ministry.

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