Japan’s weak climate plans “grave concern” says John Prescott

Former UK climate envoy appeals to Japanese premier Shinzo Abe to change course and offer tough emissions goal for Paris

(Pic: Sara Jones/Flickr)

(Pic: Sara Jones/Flickr)

By Ed King

Proposed Japanese carbon reduction targets are far too weak and threaten the country’s legacy as a climate change leader, says John Prescott.

In a letter sent to the Kyodo News website, the UK’s former deputy prime minister, now a peer in the House of Lords, writes of his “grave concern” that the government plans further relax its climate goals.

“A decline in Japanese ambition, at a critical point in international climate diplomacy, could send the wrong signal to other nations on Japan’s commitment to multilateralism,” says Prescott, who helped broker the the Kyoto Protocol – the world’s only legally binding climate deal – in 1997.

Nearly 200 countries are working on plans to develop replacement global climate deal, due to be signed off in Paris this December.

All governments have promised to contribute. So far only 26 countries including all 28 EU member states, Mexico, Russia and the US have submitted plans.

Climate tracker: What’s happened to pledges for Paris summit? 

This week, officials in Tokyo indicated the country would rely heavily on fossil fuels up to and beyond 2030, with renewables providing around 24% of the electricity mix.

That followed suggestions it would aim to slash greenhouse gas emissions 25% on 2013 levels by 2025, lower than the US (28% on 2005 levels by 2025) and EU (40% on 1990 levels by 2030).

Nuclear energy represented 27% of power generation before the Fukishima disaster, leading to the shutdown of all reactors. Between 2012-2014 Japan spent $270 billion importing fossil fuels to fill this gap.

Japan was marginalising itself from international climate politics as it failed to give up coal and embrace clean energy, UK think tank E3G charged in a report on Thursday.

The “grace period” following the Fukushima disaster was now over, said Taylor Dimsdale, E3G head of research, while the “Japanese government’s roll back of its climate goals puts it at odds with its major competitors like China who are reaping the rewards of global decarbonisation.”

In his letter, Prescott urges prime minister Shinzo Abe, who is in Washington DC meeting president Barack Obama, to “change course”, citing Japan’s role at the 1997 Kyoto UN climate summit.

“I know the Kyoto Protocol carries great significance for Japan’s diplomats, politicians and business leaders,” says Prescott.

“I am sure that it will impel the government of Premier Abe to raise its game now that the stakes on climate change are even higher, and the need for leadership greater than ever.”

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