Japanese lawmakers declare climate emergency after government sets zero emissions target

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese lawmakers declared a climate emergency on Thursday in a symbolic vote aimed at increasing pressure to tackle global warming after the government last month committed to a firm timetable for net emissions null.

With the vote of the powerful lower house of parliament, Japan – the world’s fifth largest carbon emitter – joins fellow Group of Seven members Britain, Canada and France in similar resolutions, as well as the European Union as a whole and nearly 2,000 regional and municipal authorities. around the world.

Last month, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that Japan would aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, a major shift for the world’s third-largest economy that relies heavily on imported fossil fuels for its sources of energy.

The non-binding emergency statement – drafted by a group of cross-party lawmakers – cites “unprecedented damage” from hurricanes, floods and wildfires, exacerbated by climate change at home and abroad, and declares that the world is facing a “climate crisis”. .

With erratic weather from this year’s record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season to climate change-related flooding in Europe, governments around the world are facing growing calls to act even as the coronavirus pandemic is raging, sapping resources.

Liberal Democratic Party ruling MK Yoshihisa Furukawa, head of the secretariat of a non-partisan group of lawmakers behind the statement, said the resolution was key to showing the world that Japan was not behind. behind in the fight against global warming.

“I think it can send a message to the world that the Japanese parliament and government are firmly committed to tackling this issue aimed at a carbon-free society,” he told Reuters, speaking ahead of the vote.

The government is developing measures, including investment funds and tax incentives, to push through the changes needed to achieve net-zero emissions, and Furukawa said the statement would give impetus to those efforts given his non-partisan support.

Japan’s new carbon neutral goal could pave the way for a revival of its beleaguered nuclear industry, nearly a decade after the Fukushima disaster shut down most reactors, though the public remains wary. Nuclear provided around 30% of Japan’s electricity before Fukushima, when the country had 54 working reactors, compared to just two today.

Announcing the new emissions target, Prime Minister Suga said Japan would “pursue nuclear energy” while introducing as much renewable energy as possible, without specifying specific plans for reactors.

Yet frustrated scientists and activists have routinely warned that action is lagging behind the Paris Agreement target of cutting emissions enough to keep rising temperatures to within 1.5-2 degrees Celsius of levels. preindustrial.

(Graph: Japan’s annual carbon emissions, )

Reporting by Linda Sieg, Aaron Sheldrick and Ami Miyazaki; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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