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USJI Voice Vol.10

COP21 and Japanese Climate Change Policy

November 24,2015
Mr. Tadashi Otsuka
Waseda University

I. Japanese Aims within the Context of International Negotiations

Japan’s aims for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) can be summarized in the following four items.

The first is ensuring a fair and effective framework in which all major countries participate. This is where Japan’s primary focus lies. In particular, it is seen as essential that the United States and China participate. Of course, even if the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) submitted by each country are implemented, a temperature rise of 2.7°C is forecast, which is problematic for the goal of keeping the temperature increase below two degrees (the “two-degree goal”).

The second aim is to avoid necessarily adopting a dualism which views countries as either “developed” or “developing.” Instead, each country would be expected to contribute as it is capable and as its situation allows. With regard to financing as well, given that such a diversity of countries can be classified as “developing,” Japan is opposed to adopting a dualistic approach.

The third aim involves the need for constructing a system which fosters a greater desire amongst nations for ongoing reductions and effectively ensures each country implements their goals. Japan takes the position that long-term goals need to be established, each country’s goals clarified, a reporting review mechanism put in place and periodic reviews carried out.

Japan’s fourth aim focuses on the essential nature of having a shared, market-based mechanism which each country can utilize in achieving international cooperation. One such mechanism is the Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM), which Japan would utilize with other countries seeking to introduce market-based mechanisms.

It is the first of these aims where the greatest concern lies, given the considerable difficulty involved in achieving both the two-degree goal and getting all of the major countries to participate. In order to achieve the two-degree goal, it is generally assumed that (1) each country must be asked to increase their goals and (2) whatever written agreement is produced as a result of the Paris conference must be legally binding; however, it is highly likely that some of the major countries will oppose requests for such goal increases.

II. Japanese Intended Nationally Determined Contributions

On July 17, 2015, Japan’s Global Warming Prevention Headquarters approved the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) and submitted them to the United Nations. The content of these INDC is as follows.

Japan’s INDC are aimed at greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions from 2020 onward, specifically reducing GHG 26.0% compared with FY2013 (25.4% compared with FY2005) by ensuring the amount of emissions reduction and absorption in Japan. This is seen as a feasible reduction target which can be achieved via a coherent combination of policies, measures and technologies aimed at achieving a good mix of energies and which sufficiently reflect the technological constraints, costs and other issues involved.

Japanese government aims to improve emissions per unit GDP by 40% or more (improving energy efficiency by 35%) and to improve per capita emissions by around 20%. The government views these as ambitious goals, given Japan’s situation, which are among the highest of any in the world. Japan also sees these goals as in line with its stated aim of seeing “GHG emissions halved globally and reduced by 80% amongst developed nations by 2050.”
With regard to the Joint Crediting Mechanism, although GHG reduction targets are not based upon it, Japan appropriately counts the amount of emissions reduction and absorption it has achieved as part of its reductions.

III. Future Japanese Initiatives

(1) A variety of global warming prevention measures are already being promoted in Japan, and this is accompanied by a large body of related law.

Japanese government intends to promptly adopt (via Cabinet approval) a Global Warming Prevention Plan by March or April 2016 which will be based upon the Act on Promotion of Global Warming Countermeasures (Article 8) and which will reflect the nature of the international framework agreement adopted at COP21. This plan will encompass such details as the timing and fundamental direction of efforts, GHG emissions control and absorption targets, policies and measures for achieving said targets and expectations for businesses which emit particularly large amounts of GHG. After its implementation, subsequent follow-up will be carried out to help manage the plan’s progress.

(2) The following are key points, contained within Japan’s INDC as well, which characterize Japan’s global warming prevention measures for 2030. For reference, Japan’s GHG emissions volume in FY2013 was equivalent to 1.408 billion tons of CO2, which was an increase of 1.2% over the previous fiscal year and a 0.8% increase over FY2005. A major cause of the year-on-year increase was an increase in coal-fired power plant energy consumption (preliminary figures indicate that energy source CO2 emissions for FY2014 were 4.6% lower than the previous fiscal year).

The first point comes from the Basic Energy Plan, which serves as the basis for Japan’s INDC, and it is that Japan’s target energy composition for 2030 is 20-22% nuclear, 22-24% renewable energy, 26% coal, 27% LNG and 3% petroleum. Of chief interest is the low value for renewable energy (particularly wind power, which is an extremely low 1.7%) and the question of whether the target figure for nuclear power generation is achievable.

The second point is that sector-specific CO2 emission for FY2013 compared with FY1990, although lower for the industrial sector (429 million tons, down from 503 million tons), are notably higher for other sectors such as business (201 million tons, up from 131 million tons); thus, particular emphasis has been placed on the business sector and households (within the INDC as well, reduction targets of 40% and 39%, respectively, have been set) and a PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Action) cycle and national mobilization efforts (“Cool Choice”) are being promoted. Examples of national mobilization efforts include encouraging the replacement of devices and appliances with more energy-efficient models, popularizing the use of carbon offsets and promoting low-carbon lifestyles, such as “Cool Biz” and “Warm Biz.”

The third point is the realization of an energy savings of about 50.3 million KL (35% improvement in energy efficiency between FY2012 and FY2030) via the implementation of an aggregate of energy-saving measures in each sector. The magnitude of this energy reduction is on par with that of the oil crisis. These energy savings would come from, amongst other things, the promotion of a Low-carbon Society Action Plan by steel, chemical, cement, paper and pulp manufacturers in the industrial sector; next-generation automobile popularization, fuel efficiency improvement, and traffic flow measures in the transportation sector; better energy-efficiency in buildings and the introduction of LED lighting and organic EL in the business sector; and better home energy-efficiency in the domestic sector.

The fourth point is the coverage ratio (as of July 17, 2015) of the Low-carbon Society Action Plan promoted for industry, and representing a follow-on development of the voluntary action plans implemented between 2008 and 2012. For the FY2020 target of the Low-carbon Society Action Plan, 76% would come from the industrial and energy conversion sector, 13% would come from the business sector and 60% would come from the transportation sector; for the FY2030 target of the Low-carbon Society Action Plan, 83% would come from the industrial and energy conversion sector, 12% would come from the business sector and 56% would come from the transportation sector. Areas of planned examination for the future are (1) how to improve efficacy via strengthened follow-up measures, (2) how to ensure fairness amongst businesses by encouraging the creation of plan non-attainment business sectors and the improvement of the coverage ratio for efforts within the business world and (3) how to increase targets for business sectors which surpass the target level.

The fifth point revolves around the Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM) mentioned earlier and how it can be used to accelerate the popularization, and ease the burden, of superior low-carbon technologies, products, systems, services and infrastructure creation, thereby contributing to the sustainable development of developing countries. The JCM seeks to disseminate environmentally-friendly technologies overseas and foster an organic connection between the mechanisms used for funding and technology. Currently, Japan has signed cooperative agreements with 15 countries and has seven registered projects in place. Japan plans to use the JCM to quantitatively assess its GHG emissions framework reduction and absorption contributions as well as to help it achieve the country’s reduction targets. The JCM can be seen as contributing to the achievement of the ultimate goals of the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

IV. Conclusion

Japan currently produces about 3% of all GHG emitted globally, and it is assuming 3% of the responsibility to future generations. China and the United States, as major GHG producers, need to take the lead in coming up with mechanisms for reducing global GHG emissions. Japan effectively did not participate in the Second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol, on the grounds that its efforts were largely meaningless if the major emissions countries did not also participate. Thus, at COP21, a new international agreement is going to be concluded including major GHG-emitting countries. In this context, it is fair to say that Japan, too, is shouldering a special responsibility to the current world situation including the new agreement. It is earnestly hoped that Japan and the United States will work together to address this issue.

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