CAN-Japan Statement Marking 5 Years Since Adoption of the Paris Agreement


December 12, 2020

Climate Action Network Japan (CAN-Japan)


On December 12 the world marked exactly five years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change. During these five years, climate disasters have grown increasingly severe around the world. In Japan as well, it is now scientifically clear that climate change is increasing the likelihood of occurrence of devastating torrential rains and heatwaves. Overseas, many lives have been lost and livelihoods and economies seriously affected by forest fires in countries such as the United States and Australia, and floods in southeast Asia and Africa. The voices of the people, including the Fridays For Future climate movement launched by Greta Thunberg and joined also by Japanese youth, have been calling on politicians to put a higher priority on climate policies and strengthen climate actions. COVID-19 is currently drawing away some attention, but in terms of protecting the basic human right to a safe and healthy live, the pandemic and climate change are both crises that require urgent responses.

The Paris Agreement entered into force with unprecedented speed within a year of being adopted, but many concerns were expressed about responses to climate crisis after the Trump administration rose to power in the United States. Nevertheless, the international community and U.S. actors outside the White House did strengthen their commitments to the Paris Agreement. The trend toward decarbonization and 100% renewable energy is gaining momentum — including efforts to end the use of coal and fossil fuels and promote energy efficiency and renewable energy — and as a result, a growing number of countries and regions are enjoying the benefits of increased employment, improved air quality, and savings from reduced spending on fossil fuels. President-elect Joe Biden was elected having made a commitment to 100% clean energy, and has said the U.S. will return to the Paris Agreement and encourage leaders of other countries, including Japan, to strengthen their efforts. One after another, governments including EU countries, U.S. states, China and others have announced long-term goals to be carbon neutral and displayed intentions to respond to the climate crisis.

However, contrary to the warnings of climate science, Japan has not made progress over the past five years in terms of target-setting and actions needed to achieve the 1.5°C to 2°C temperature target of the Paris Agreement. In UN negotiations, countries were called upon to raise their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets by the end of 2020, but when the Japanese government resubmitted its targets in March 2020 it failed to change the unsatisfactorily low target it had submitted in 2015. During the past five years, Japan has been promoting both domestically and internationally the construction of coal-fired power plants — the largest source of CO2 emissions — even though they will lock-in climate and environmental risks for decades into the future and risk becoming stranded assets. In October, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga finally announced that Japan would aim to be carbon neutral by 2050, but he has not yet shown any intention of raising Japan’s emissions reduction target for the milestone year 2030, and appears poised to continue counting on unproven innovative technologies and relying on nuclear power.

We again call upon the government of Japan to recall the spirit of the Paris Agreement, adopted with applause and cheers five years ago, to significantly strengthen its climate targets prior to the COP26 Glasgow climate conference, to commit itself to energy policies to quit nuclear and coal, to eliminate post-COVID economic recovery policies that contradict decarbonization efforts, and instead to implement policies that will contribute to realization of a decarbonized society. CAN-Japan remains committed to the realization of a sustainable and equitable society, through advocacy done in collaboration with CAN International, by calling for stronger climate policies and actions in Japan and the rest of the world, by participating in and making policy recommendations for international negotiations, by disseminating information about cities and regions choosing 100% renewable energy (e.g., site, in Japanese), and by cooperating in many campaigns (e.g., the petition calling for action over the next four years, and Japan Beyond Coal).