The United Nations Climate Summit, which discussed strategies for countering global warming, has come to a close with the announcement that a large number of countries, including the U.S. and China, will submit emission reduction benchmarks for 2020 onward by March of next year. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon — the organizer of the summit — would appear to be right in calling it “a historic day.” The united recognition world leaders displayed toward the necessity of developing a new framework for combating climate change was groundbreaking indeed.
In reality, the effects of global warming are not a problem of the distant future. Worldwide, extreme fluctuations in weather are already causing social unrest; food shortages are one example. We human beings have no choice but to view such crises as contemporary problems that we must face. Countering climate change cannot wait any longer: It is the duty of the international community.
Along with President Obama, 120 heads of state were in attendance at the summit. China, the top global emitter, and the United States, the second largest emitter, both gave addresses. Obama emphasized that China and the U.S. have a special responsibility to spearhead policy formation, while Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli expressed the view that emissions in China will be brought to their peak as soon as possible.
There is a great deal of significance to these two countries taking proactive positions, since they hold the key to effective climate policy, and the international community will receive such positions as a public commitment. It is expected that a new framework will be adopted at the end of next year at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — COP21 — but with the leadership of the U.S. and China, a legally binding agreement should become a reality.
On the other hand, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participated in the summit, Japan’s presence was lost — not simply isolated, but utterly buried. This was because the prime minister was incapable of presenting a single proposal for a new reductions policy or benchmarks; he also never even mentioned the newly established Green Climate Fund for supporting the climate policy efforts of developing countries.
Especially beside the strong enthusiasm, zeal and sense of crisis other heads of state expressed, Japan’s lack of leadership was conspicuous. Even China, which until now has taken a half-hearted approach to the issue, offered a declaration by a high-ranking official that benchmarks will be presented by March of next year. It is extremely unfortunate that Japan has instead disappointed the international community.
To begin with, our continued clinging to the murky prospects of revitalizing nuclear energy — resulting in the repeated shelving of domestic debate on curtailing emissions — is what’s responsible for Japan lagging behind the international community in climate policy. It’s self-evident that Japan won’t produce anything better than makeshift solutions on climate policy for so long as we do not free ourselves from our nuclear dependence. Prime Minister Abe ought to take this opportunity to show leadership and immediately declare nuclear power a lost cause.