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[ISHES Newsletter #9]Japan's Long-term Vision Regarding Climate Change

2019/04/25 16:23:43


ISHES Newsletter #9
April 25, 2019

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Copyright (c) 2019

Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society, Japan


Dear Readers,

We are happy to release our ninth issue of the ISHES Newsletter!
We hope you enjoy reading our articles from Japan related to happiness, economy and society.

In this April 2019 issue, you will find the following articles:

- Japan's Long-term Vision Regarding Climate Change: Recommendations from the Meeting on a Long-Term Strategy under the Paris Agreement as Growth Strategy

The Prime Minister created an expert panel entitled "Meeting on a Long-Term Strategy under the Paris Agreement as Growth Strategy" to discuss basic approaches and a new vision to address climate change. Junko Edahiro was a member of this panel and here provides her own comments on the ambitious vision presented to the government after the final meeting.

- New articles from the Research Institute for Creating New Paradigms based on Eastern and Western Wisdom

This time we provide an article from the column by Yoshifumi Taguchi, entitled "The Spirit of Wabicha: Beautiful Flow -- Taoist Thought and Japan's Heart," which has been uploaded on the web.

- Recommended articles from the JFS Newsletter on sustainability issues in Japan

TABLE FOR TWO (TFT) is a social contribution concept that originated in Japan and has now grown to include 14 countries. Here we introduce this program to have people in developed and developing countries to enjoy meals together across time and space.


Japan's Long-Term Vision on Climate Change:
Recommendations from the Meeting on a Long-Term Strategy under the Paris Agreement as Growth Strategy


On April 2, 2019, I attended the fifth session of the Japanese government's Meeting on a Long-Term Strategy under the Paris Agreement as Growth Strategy, of which I was a member. The recommendations from that session were hand-delivered to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, completing the role of the panel.

This panel was established to provide a way for the government to discuss basic approaches to formulate long-term strategies based on the Paris Agreement and developing a new vision. In the first session, we were told by Prime Minister Abe, "I want you to map out a new vision beyond the limits of conventional common practice," so we were expected to create an ambitious vision.

Japan's long-term vision until now has been for "an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050." Among the G7 countries, Japan and Italy are the only ones that have not yet announced long-term strategies based on the Paris Agreement. With Japan hosting the G20 summit in June 2019, a long-term strategy must be put forth that will not be an embarrassment to our nation. The role of the round-table discussion was to put forth recommendations to serve as a foundation for that. Shinichi Kitaoka, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), chaired the panel, which had nine other members. Five sessions were held, with the first being on August 3, 2018. The main points of discussion were as follows.

- What kind of ambitious long-term vision to establish
- How to address the 1.5 degrees Celsius target of the Paris Agreement
- How to address reduced emissions domestically and contributions to reduced emissions overseas
- How to address coal power (domestically and for overseas exports)
- How to address carbon pricing

My own opinions on these were that we should indicate a base year for an 80% reduction by 2050 and that furthermore we should base our long-term vision on a 1.5oC target; that overseas contributions are important, but we should first promote domestic emission reductions; that we should indicate a policy of zero coal power; and that carbon pricing should be properly prioritized and promoted. There were some points on which opinions were split and unresolved during the discussion.

I also argued for having growth strategies for local communities as well, for taking people's livelihoods, wellbeing and happiness into account, and for the importance of innovation in general, not just for advanced technologies.

Below, I describe details of the recommendations along the lines of the main points of discussion.

What should be the level of ambition for the long-term vision?
How to address the 1.5oC target?

The recommendations set out to aim for achieving a "decarbonized society" as early as possible in the second half of this century. Decarbonized society is explained as a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases (globally carbon neutral). In other words, it is a vision for achieving "net zero" emissions as early as possible in the latter half of this century.

Many of the long-term targets being submitted by other advanced nations currently call for an "80% reduction by 2050," so Japan's vision this time of "net zero emissions as early as possible in the latter half of this century" is by no means inferior to those of other advanced nations.

What position should we take on emission reductions in Japan and contributions to emission reductions overseas?

Japan's greenhouse gas emissions account for 3.5% of the world's total. Many argue that contributing to reductions overseas, where there is much room for reduction, would be helpful to the world overall. On the other hand, some such as environmental NGOs have the opinion that first, we should properly reduce emissions in Japan.

The recommendation regarding this point, "To the lead the world, Japan needs to take the initiative and set an example," makes explicit the recognition that we ought to take the initiative and reduce emissions domestically first.

What value should be placed on coal power (domestically and for exports abroad)?

Coal-fired power generation is a major theme both domestically and for export abroad, and at the round table discussion, opinions about it were split. Domestically, renewable energy has not become the main power source yet, and from an international viewpoint, electric power fees are high in Japan, so particularly in industry, some have the view that the option of cheaper coal-fired power generation should be kept. Coal-fired power exports abroad have drawn sharp criticism from environmental NGOs and others, but many opinions were expressed such as "in consideration of conditions in developing nations, where low-cost electric power is needed, we cannot stop coal-fired power generation exports" and "even if Japan were not exporting it, wouldn't they just import other countries' facilities that produce even more CO2 emissions after all?"

The recommendation here clearly states a course of "scaling down dependence on coal-fired power generation and similar technologies as much as possible," which is a big step forward from previous positions, but a course toward "zero" coal power was not set forth.

The recommendation for exports abroad was expressed as "regarding energy infrastructure exports abroad, provide aid with the goal of contributing to CO2 emission reductions consistent with the long-term targets of the Paris Agreement." When hand-delivering the recommendations to Prime Minister Abe after the final session, Chairman Kitaoka mentioned the split in opinions and no clear resolution, saying "Regarding the points discussed about overseas exports of coal-fired power generation, several members expressed the view that there should be a general rule of not providing aid from public funds. Other members, however, had the view that there are developing nations that must use coal. The discussion of this among the members led to no clear recommendation on this matter. Still, I want to note that this controversy exists."

What value should be placed on carbon pricing?

Some members of the discussion, including me, put a priority on carbon pricing as something to propose firmly, but Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) is officially opposed to carbon pricing, saying, "Strengthening explicit carbon pricing mechanisms such as carbon taxes and emission trading schemes would not only reduce Japan's international competitiveness and dampen economic activity through further elevation of energy costs in Japan, which are already at a high level from an international perspective, but would also lead to a loss of corporate R&D and investment resources, harming private-led innovation which will be necessary for long-term global warming countermeasures, so therefore financial circles are unanimously opposed to it." The members from industry in particular were thus strongly opposed to it.

Accordingly, the recommendation does not give any conclusion but says, "A technical discussion among experts is needed, touching on aspects such as conditions in Japan, international trends and impacts on the international competitiveness of industry."

Finally, some points I stressed during the session were included in the written document, i.e., inclusion of growth strategies for local communities; consideration of people's livelihoods, wellbeing and happiness; and the importance of innovation in general, not just for advanced technology. They were worded as follows."

"Through local communities, sustainable growth coexisting with nature is maintained in Japan and the rest of the world, spiritually rich lives are led even in countries experiencing the aging of society and fewer children, and 'regional circulation and ecological spheres' that form the nucleus of resilient and lively local communities are created, thus also contributing to realization of the SDGs."

"We are also in an age when people's definition of 'happiness' is changing. The ideal livelihoods, lifestyles and happiness are being questioned with an emphasis on sustainability, humanity and society. We are at a turning point in how we measure social progress."

"To achieve a decarbonized society, it will be essential to change the simplistic view that 'innovation equals technological progress' so that, combined with innovation that creates advanced technologies, we also have innovation to apply and promote those technologies, for the mainstreaming of those technologies. It is also important to look at ideas such as 'lifestyle innovation,' which transforms individuals' concepts of sustainable lifestyles and ways of living, as well as 'the quality of life,' i.e., how technology is used."

Being involved in creating recommendations as a member of a panel was a valuable opportunity. There are still many points on which the recommendations are lacking, but in any case, we were able to put forth an ambitious vision of "net zero emissions as early as possible in the latter half of this century," and I think that is good. The future will show what kind of long-term strategies the government will formulate in response to these recommendations and how these strategies will be implemented. I would like to keep a watchful eye on them and raise my voice when needed.

Junko Edahiro, president of the Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society (ISHES)


New articles from the Research Institute for Creating New Paradigms based on Eastern and Western Wisdom

In this section we introduce the latest articles posted on the website of the Research Institute for Creating New Paradigms based on Eastern and Western Wisdom.

This time we introduce an article from a column by Yoshifumi Taguchi, entitled "The Spirit of Wabicha: Beautiful Flow -- Taoist Thought and Japan's Heart." What is the spirit of Wabicha? Where does it come from? We hope you enjoy reading.

The Spirit of Wabicha: Beautiful Flow --Taoist Thought and Japan's Heart


Recommended articles from the JFS Newsletter on sustainability issues in Japan


In this regular section in each issue of the ISHES Newsletter, we recommend past articles from Japan for Sustainability newsletters. The non-profit JFS was active from August 2002 until July 2018, sending out information to the world with the aim of moving society in Japan and the world toward being more sustainable and happy.

In this article, we introduce TABLE FOR TWO (TFT), a social contribution activity from Japan that is spreading around the world. When this article was written in 2010, only Japan and the U.S. were involved, but it has grown to 14 countries today. The TFT concept was inspired by the idea of "people in developed countries and children in developing countries sharing a meal at a table -- a concept that extends beyond space and time." Read on to discover what it's all about.

"TABLE FOR TWO" Promoting Healthier Meals Locally and School Lunch Donations Internationally


We hope you enjoyed reading out newsletter.
Thank you for your kind support.

"Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society

*The Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society (ISHES) is an organization based in Japan that is working to build a happy and sustainable society. To this end, we need to think about happiness, economy and society together by learning from, analyzing, and thinking about theories and cases in Japan and around the world regarding what happiness is and what kind of economy and society will create and support happiness.

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