Has the COP lost its luster on climate change? Three ways Japan could lead the fight

Has the COP lost its luster on climate change? Three ways Japan could lead the fight

The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP27, was held in Egypt and attracted more than 33,000 participants from all over the world.

Although the venue is smaller in numbers than COP26, which was held in the UK last year, it was probably one of the largest venues in its history. Governments, corporations and NGOs from around the world presented huge exhibitions, giving the summit the appearance of an international trade fair.

Sumiko Takeuchi, director of the International Institute of Environment and Economics and author of this article (© Sankei by Hirokazu Miyagawa).

How COP Became a Trade Fair

The 2015 Paris Agreement changed the nature of the COP. Under the agreement, states were obligated to set voluntary targets, report on progress, and act proactively. But achieving these goals was not a legal obligation.

Thus, this led to less negotiations between governments, and the Conference of the Parties became a venue for presenting initiatives. Whether this two-week “International Trade Fair” is worth every year is debatable.

However, in view of the changing role of the COP, Japan should proactively raise awareness of its contributions and strengths in combating climate change.

The Truth about Climate Change Loss and Damage Fund

The layers of conflict over climate change are getting more and more complex. The first layer is the new north-south divide. That is, the conflict between the “perpetrators” (developed countries) and the “victims” (developing countries).

The argument goes that developing countries suffer a double setback. While they bear the brunt of global warming, their right to development is also restricted.


WAW!  2022: Japan organizes the International Women's Gathering after a three-year hiatus

At COP 27, developing countries argued that climate change caused by developed countries had exacerbated natural disasters, and called for compensation for the damages they had caused.

As a result, an agreement was reached to establish a fund. It is a fund that developed countries do not have the capacity to provide. All countries are grappling with the serious economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Also, it remains to be seen if the fund will actually work. How the money will be distributed to developing countries is not clear at all. As well as whether the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives will provide funding for it when a new US Congress begins in 2025.

China and India: Hiding from Climate Change Responsibility

Another layer of conflict is the United States and Europe against China and India, which are highly developed but claim the status of developing countries. The West wants to encourage these countries to make ambitious plans by raising targets based on the Glasgow Climate Agreement adopted last year.

But countries such as China and India are wary of such a move. The European Union’s proposed carbon cap adjustment mechanism has also exacerbated the conflict.

Industries in the EU bear the price of carbon through emissions trading. The Carbon Limits Adjustment Mechanism aims to impose an import tax on products manufactured in countries outside the European Union that do not bear this burden.

But China and India – the main targets of the mechanism – are beginning to resist. They argue that the mechanism is a green protection policy and a violation of the Paris Agreement. In part, this is because there is no way to accurately measure emissions in complex supply chains.


WAW!  2022: Japan organizes the International Women's Gathering after a three-year hiatus
Climate change
A coal processing plant in Hejin City, China, November 28, 2019 (© AP)

Sharp divides in climate change

Another interesting issue is the conflict between the European Commission and European industries. Organizations such as the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and the Japan Trade Confederation met during the COP. However, industry associations that regularly participate, such as the European Business Confederation and German and French organisations, were all absent.

This indicates a sharp divide between the industry – already burdened with issues within the EU – and the European Commission, which is scrambling to raise climate change targets even in the face of an energy crisis.

Showtime at the COP

It was widely reported that Japan had received the satirical Fossil of the Day award on the first day of COP27. The “prize” is given to countries that appear to be doing nothing to combat global warming.

But why is working to reduce the carbon footprint of thermal power generation through hydrogen technology worth the cash?

The Fossil of the Day award was announced each day during the COP, but neither China nor Germany received the award. While China is the world’s largest emitter, Germany has rapidly increased its coal-fired power generation in the wake of the energy crisis.

The banality of the award is evidenced by the organizers themselves naming the event “Showtime”. Perhaps this award, and not Japan, is the reason for not helping.

How can japan fight climate change

Neither Japan’s government nor its industry are good at flashy performance. But there is a good reason why industry organizations and researchers around the world are pinning their hopes on Japan. Here are three areas where Japan can contribute to combating climate change.

1. Data collection

Developing countries often lack knowledge of how to obtain data on energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, China refuses to share its state-controlled data on corporate emissions with international industry organizations. But transparent data is essential for countries to take joint action.


WAW!  2022: Japan organizes the International Women's Gathering after a three-year hiatus

Japan’s Ibuki-2 is a greenhouse gas monitoring satellite. It uses high-resolution sensors to monitor emissions from power plants and other large emitters from space. The data collected is very valuable in the fight against climate change.

The H-IIA launch vehicle carrying Ibuki-2 launched on October 29 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture. (© Sankey)

2. Disaster prevention

Developing countries demanded compensation for natural disasters. But what they really need is technology to minimize the damage. Japan has a lot to contribute with its accumulated knowledge and experience, including its insurance system.

3. Energy-saving technologies

Finally, the third is to reduce global emissions through Japan’s highly energy-efficient technologies. Although Japan needs to reduce emissions, halving its emissions would only reduce global emissions by less than three percent. This in itself is not enough to solve global warming.

While the world is facing an energy crisis, there are high expectations for Japan’s energy saving technologies to reduce energy consumption itself.

The Japanese government is working to demonstrate the extent to which trading in Japanese technology contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gases on a global scale.

Whether Japan will achieve its goal of balancing the environment with the economy will depend largely on whether such a system can be created. This should be achieved through the combined effort of the government and the industries that own these technologies.


(Read the editorial in Japanese on this link.)

Author: Sumiko Takeuchi


WAW!  2022: Japan organizes the International Women's Gathering after a three-year hiatus

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