Japan Declares Climate Emergency

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Citing “unprecedented damage” from weather events, lawmakers in Japan declared a climate emergency in a symbolic vote aimed at increasing pressure to meet a timetable for net-zero omissions set a month earlier.

Japan declares climate emergency over “unprecedented” weather events

A cross-party group of legislators in Japan have declared a “climate emergency” via a nonbinding declaration. The vote in the lower chamber of Japan’s parliament cited “unprecedented damage” from weather events impacting the nation such as hurricanes, flooding, and forest fires that it said is being exacerbated by climate change at home and abroad.

The group declared that Japan and the world-at-large is facing a “climate crisis.”

In a statement, Yoshihisa Furukawa, head of the secretariat of a non-partisan group of MPs behind the declaration, and lawmaker from of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said that the resolution is vital in showing the rest of the world that Japan is not lagging in the fight to combat global warming.

“I think this can send the message to the world that Japan’s parliament and government are firmly resolved to tackle this aiming at a carbon-free society,” Furukawa told Reuters before the vote.

Japan now joins the fellow Group of Seven members (Britain, Canada, France, European Union) and nearly 2,000 regional and city authorities around the world in declaring such a resolution, Global News Canada and Reuters reports.

Declaration follows prior legislation

Last month, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that the nation would aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. The task won’t be easy. Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and relies heavily on imported fossil fuels to provide its energy. Because of that, Japan is also the world’s fifth-largest carbon emitter.

Furukawa says the nonpartisan declaration will give impetus to efforts towards pushing through changes that are necessary for reaching the net-zero emissions target. Some of the measures being developed include tax incentives and investment funds as part of compliance.

Japan may be forced to focus on nuclear energy

After the Fukushima disaster, Japan shut down most of its reactors. Before Fukushima, Japan had 54 reactors in operation and 30% of the nation’s electricity came from nuclear energy. Now, only two nuclear reactors are operational.

But in order for the country to reach carbon neutrality, it may be necessary for Japan to once again rely on nuclear energy, despite a wary public.

The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was the only other nuclear accident, besides the Chernobyl disaster 1986, to receive a level 7 event classification, the highest-ranking on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

A 2013 survey found that 40 percent of children screened around Fukushima were diagnosed with thyroid nodules or cysts. The concern is that an abnormal number of cases of thyroid cancer will arise in the future.

Some fear other carcinogenic effects from the radiation and worry about a failure to diagnose breast cancer as well.

Prime Minister Suga, in announcing the 2050 net-zero emissions target, said Japan would “pursue nuclear power,” as well as introducing as much renewable energy as possible.