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Top>Research>International negotiation for global warming and Japan’s contributions


Tomohiro Shishime

Tomohiro Shishime [profile]

Education Course

International negotiation for global warming and Japan’s contributions

Tomohiro Shishime
Professor of Environmental Policy, Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Graduate School of Public Policy, Chuo University

1. Introduction

In September 2013, Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report[1] summarizing natural scientific evidence for global warming. The report raised the certainty (95%-100% possibility) that global warming has progressed due to human factors and substantiated the rising sea temperature which accompanies global warming.

The report also analyzed the effect that cumulative CO2 emissions have had on temperature. Assuming that the maximum value for the cumulative emissions amount (since the industrial revolution) has not exceeded 1 trillion tC, there is a 66% probability of suppressing temperature increase to the global target of within 2℃. 531 billion tC had already been emitted as of 2011. In other words, the remaining balance for the world’s carbon budget is limited to 469 billion tC[2]. Even assuming that the current emissions level is maintained, this remaining balance will be used in 15 to 25 years[3]. This time period will become even shorter if the emissions amount increases every year.

When examining changes in the global emissions amount, advanced nations accounted for approximately 50% of the total emissions amount in 1990. However, this number dropped to 35% in 2010[4]. Conversely, developing nations including China and India accounted for nearly 65% of the total emissions amount. Such countries have a growing population and expanding economy, and the emissions amount will continue to increase in the future. Therefore, it is essential to include developing nations in efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.

Amidst such circumstances, Japan has asserted that the United States, China and all major countries must participate in efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Although the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol began from 2013, Japan has not set a reduction target due to lack of participation from major countries. Instead, Japan has responded by setting voluntary reduction targets for 2020.

Recently, nuclear power plants in Japan have stopped operating and Japan’s target for the Kyoto Protocol no longer applies. As a result, there seems to have been a decrease in consciousness for taking measures towards global warming.

However, the issue of global warming still exists. Unless Japan assesses actions being taken overseas and addresses this issue through a long-term perspective, there is the danger of our nation being forced into a tough position in the future.

2. International response to global warming

Currently, 3 international responses to global warming are being implemented: 1) reductions in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, 2) voluntary reductions by 2020 based on the Cancun Agreements, and 3) post-2020 reductions based on a new framework scheduled to be formulated in Paris in 2015.

At COP19 which was held in Warsaw this November, Japan changed its reduction target for greenhouse gases from a 25% reduction compared to 1990 levels (set at the Cancun Agreement) to a 3.8% reduction compared to 2005 levels. This change was made based on the stoppage of nuclear power plants in Japan. In comparison, the United States has set a greenhouse gas reduction targets of 17% (compared to 2005 levels), while China has set the target of a 40%-45% CO2 reduction per unit of GDP (compared to 2005 levels).

In Japan, there seems to be the impression that the United States and China are not dedicated to global warming response. Is this impression correct? At the US-China (U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping) meeting held in July 2013, the two countries discussed integrated projects to capture the carbon emissions from coal combustion, promotion of energy efficiency in buildings, smart grids, and the reduction of alternative CFCs in greenhouse gases[5]. Although the discussion between the two countries was not intended to determine a reduction amount for CO2, it focused on implementing effective improvement measures and practical reduction of greenhouse gases. Together, the U.S. and China account for approximately 40% of the world’s total emissions. A partnership between the two countries creates the possibility of international developments for new measures to prevent global warming.

In reflection, when Kyoto Protocol reduction targets were set in 1997, deliberation among the U.S., China, England and India was held during the final stage of discussions. Although the U.S. was said to be originally considering a 0% reduction target, it eventually accepted a 7% reduction target. Ultimately, Japan accepted a 6% reduction target. The tide sometimes changes significantly during international negotiations.

3. Japan’s contributions

Now, what actions should be taken by Japan? I would like to examine one particular action. Apart from the debate for resuming operations at nuclear power plants, how about placing a bit more focus on energy conservation? This would also be useful from the perspectives of energy procurement, energy security, global warming and economy.

For example, the amount of energy consumed by the civilian sector in Japan is increasing (in 2007, 2.5 times more than in 1973). Energy conservation at office buildings is extremely important. Internationally, the promotion of net-zero energy buildings is a major theme. When focusing on the promulgation of technology such as energy-saving and cogeneration (simultaneous generation of heat and electricity) of architectural structures, facilities and electrical products as well as fuel cells and storage batteries, it is possible to fully utilize Japan’s experience and technology. The most important aspect is to use the latest technology to realize innovations for energy reduction that is not overly-ambitious or unsustainable.

Conversely, when looking overseas, the energy demand of 10 ASEAN nations is forecasted to increase by 80% or more by 2035[6]. Together with China and India, the core of the world’s energy demand is shifting to Asia. The International Energy Agency (IEA) emphasizes the importance of improving energy efficiency (in other words, energy-saving). This is another chance for Japan to contribute. However, special care must be taken when spreading Japan’s energy-saving technology.

To give an example based on my limited experience, in the case of India, dissemination is difficult unless the investment cost of energy-saving facilities can be recovered in 3 years or less. Accordingly, Indian researchers have repeatedly pointed out that the investment recovery period of Japanese technology is too long. Furthermore, Japanese corporations are overly concerned about violation of intellectual property rights which may occur overseas. One possible countermeasure to this concern is the efficient utilization of technology and intellectual property rights which are not already used in Japan. In my opinion, Japan must further deepen relationships with developing nations and strategically spread Japanese energy-saving technology. It is important that Japan and developing nations hold deliberations for the use of a bilateral mechanism which enables Japan to acquire a portion of the reduced greenhouse gas credits.

Taking action based on high targets for energy conservation both in Japan and overseas will promote global warming countermeasures and related technological developments, as well as leading to economic merits. This November, the Japanese government formulated a proactive diplomatic strategy for countering global warming. I hope that this policy will be the impetus for realizing the ideas which I discussed above.

At the COP19 in 2013, it was decided that each country shall submit voluntary reduction targets and action plans in 2015 in preparation for creating a new framework for greenhouse gas reduction from 2020 with participation from all countries. In September 2014, leaders from various fields throughout the world will gather at the United Nations for the 2014 Climate Change Conference. It is expected that a political declaration will be made for suppressing the temperature increase to within 2℃. Furthermore, the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report is scheduled to be released next October. The report will further encourage the formation of a framework for preventing global warming from 2020.

Based on renewed recognition of Japan’s international position and Japan’s strengths, our nation must strategically promote global warming measures and seek to contribute to the world.

  1. ^ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changenew window(accessed on November 30th, 2013)
  2. ^ Earth Negotiations Bulletinnew window(accessed on November 30th, 2013)
  3. ^ Nicholas Stern, World leaders must act faster on climate change, Financial Times, September 29, 2013.
  4. ^ Material from the Ministry of the Environment (Original text: International Energy Agency)
  5. ^ Anna Fifield, China and US agree non-binding climate plan, Financial Times, July 10, 2013.
  6. ^ International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook Special Report 2013: Southeast Asia Energy Outlook, 2013.
Tomohiro Shishime
Professor of Environmental Policy, Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Graduate School of Public Policy, Chuo University
Born in Kagoshima Prefecture in 1961.
Graduated from the Kyoto University Faculty of Engineering in 1984. In 1993, completed the Master’s Program in Environmental Technology at the Imperial College, University of London.
Holds a PhD in Engineering from Kyoto University. Entered employment at the Ministry of Health and Welfare in 1984. Afterwards, held various positions related to environmental policy at the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and local governments. Also, at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies and the Ricoh Institute of Sustainability and Business, conducted research for overseas application of Japan’s low-carbon technology and for response to corporate energy/environmental issues. Assumed his current position in April 2013.
His recent written works include Carbon tax policy progress in north-east Asia, Larry Kreiser et al. (eds), Environmental Taxation in China and Asia-Pacific, Edward Elgar Publishing Inc., 2011 (co-written), Research for application of low-carbon technology in India, Collection of Theses from the 33rd Symposium of the Kyoto University Association of Environmental and Sanitary Engineering Research, 2011 (co-written), and so on.