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Future of Japan as a former environmentally advanced country

Common environmental issues for mankind and COP

It is still fresh in our memory that in August 2017, President Trump of the United States formally announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which caused a worldwide controversy. What is the underlying and controversial Paris Agreement? This time, I would like to review the words COP (glass) and the Paris Agreement, which are always used when environmental issues are discussed.

In June 1992, the “Earth Summit” or “United Nations Conference on Environment and Development” was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Considering global warming, acid rain, and other environmental problems that require countermeasures on a global scale to be common issues for all humankind, representatives from 172 countries around the world (Almost all United Nations member states) held discussions with the aim of achieving “sustainable development” by balancing the environment and development. One of the most important issues at the conference was climate change caused by greenhouse gases. In the end, the “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change” was adopted because reducing greenhouse gas emissions “Acknowledging that it can be economically justified and that it can help solve other environmental problems” while “Determined to protect the climate system for present and future generations”. 115 countries including Japan signed the convention during the summit, and the Conference of the Parties (COP = Conference of the Parties) was subsequently held based on the convention. The COP is a general term for the annual Conference of the Parties on Climate Change.

The Conference of the Parties to the Paris Convention, called COP 2015, was held in December 21, 18 years after COP3, which adopted the Kyoto Protocol. Since the United States, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, did not participate in the Kyoto Protocol, and only 42 developed countries and regions were obliged to reduce their emissions, global reductions did not progress. As a result, global interest in the prevention of global warming has grown, and as of December 2018, 180 countries had ratified the Paris Agreement, which was adopted as a new initiative.

The Paris Agreement is said to have great significance in achieving the “Participation of all employees” that was not possible under the Kyoto Protocol. Features of the agreement include the following.

1)(The draft also calls for efforts to curb the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, including hopes from island nations.) to limit rising temperatures to “Less than 2 degrees” compared to pre-industrial levels

2)The long-term goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to virtually zero by the second half of this century.

3)All countries voluntarily set targets and achievement methods, and review them every 5 years (Target year is 2030 or 2025)

4)set higher goals than before when reviewing

5)Developing an international mechanism to help countries that have suffered losses and damages due to climate change

6)Establishment of a framework for international verification of each country’s efforts and support

 At COP 2018 (held in Katowice, Poland) in 24, in order to put the Paris Agreement into practice, a detailed implementation policy was decided on, including how to verify progress every 5 years, ensure transparency, and calculate assistance from developed countries to developing countries.

Trends from the Paris Agreement

On December 19, 2018, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun published an interesting report titled <“1.5 deg.” and “decoal” issues highlighted at COP 24>.Regarding the 1.5 degree target, the report said that (UNEP) (IPCC) and “United Nations Environment Programme” “United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” were influenced by the report released just before COP 24 that climate change cannot be controlled by the current Paris agreement targets. The move toward decarburization is described as “‘growth’ of ‘National Coal’ and (PPCA), which were formed during COP 23, was eye-catching.”. According to the article, 27 organizations (Companies and local governments) participated in PPCA last year, up from 80 this year. Japan is still considering the expansion of coal-fired thermal power generation, but global trends show that the road ahead is not smooth.

As for President Trump’s announcement of withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, which was written at the beginning of this column, there are some concerns in Japan about its effectiveness in the future. Reuters reported on October 24, 2017 that U.S. companies were not affected.

According to the article, 1/5 of the companies rated highly by the London-based non-profit organization “CDP” for their efforts on climate change and other issues were U.S. companies, unchanged from the previous year. In the United States, the governors of California and Colorado, Apple and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. issued statements criticizing the withdrawal from the Paris agreement. In some regions, it was stated that efforts were being made to reduce greenhouse gases in accordance with the Paris Agreement.  In the past, Japan led the world in the development of environmental technologies as an environmentally advanced country. However, it is difficult to achieve the goal of “26% reduction from 30 levels by 13” greenhouse gases. Although it is the world’s most advanced, it has no choice but to rely on new coal-fired thermal power plants, which emit large amounts of CO2, and renewable energy sources such as solar power and geothermal power generation are lagging behind the rest of the world. With the global trend toward a next-generation energy society, where is Japan heading?

2019.03.18