Climate Change Policy in Japan: From the 1980s to 2015

Climate Change Policy in Japan: From the 1980s to 2015 This is a very timely book since the Paris Agreement set a direction for international cooperation to mitigate climate change. Its primary objective is to elucidate Japanese climate change policymaking processes, which are often opaque and enigmatic to foreign researchers and practitioners. The author states this is the only study in English dealing with the entire process of Japan’s involvement in this issue, from the late 1980s to today. Written by an expert who has been closely observing both Japan’s domestic climate change policymaking processes and international negotiations as a senior researcher of the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), it is certainly a valuable long-needed book. The author shows not only her expertise in clearly and concisely describing technical aspects of immensely complicated policymaking processes and international negotiations, but also treats the issues of climate change as a keen observer of fine sensibilities. As an epigraph of each chapter, she introduces a famous haiku for each season, which captures the general tone of the content. The haiku of Chapter 1 describes a quiet spring day which alludes to a slow start of things; that is, the introduction of how to frame the issues of climate change and to identifying various explanations of Japan’s policymaking processes as well as main policymakers such as prime minister and concerned ministers including environment, economy, and foreign affairs ministers. Chapter 2 deals with relatively active participation of Japanese policymakers in the negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or the glittering heyday of Japan’s climate diplomacy. However, Japan became very reluctant to engage in international negotiations toward the Kyoto Protocol despite it had hosted the third Conference of the Parties to UNFCCC to adopt it. Thus, the haiku of Chapter 3 describes the scene of an autumn night during which a child pesters the poet for getting the moon. The main theme of Chapter 4 is about setting concrete mid- and long-term targets of reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions about which Japan became laggard. The image of its haiku is that of a Japanese standing in a desolate, wintry field. Chapter 5 describes domestic politics and diplomacy of climate change after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear accidents in March 2011. Since electricity generation by nuclear power plants has substantially decreased, while electricity from fossil-fuel plants increased, CO2 (one of GHGs) emissions in Japan have greatly increased. Japan, further, has retreated from an active role in international efforts to mitigate climate change, as if it were looking upon ancient battles in the distance. The concluding chapter summarizes the author’s three decades of observation of Japan’s climate change policymaking processes. The main argument of this book is that framing climate change as an economic and energy issue has prevailed throughout the periods of observation over framing it as an environmental issue or a diplomatic/foreign policy issue in Japan. Above all, the core of this economic-and-energy framing of climate change is the marginal abatement cost (MAC) of reducing GHG emissions in Japan. Because Japan already achieved energy efficiency in the process of overcoming pollution problems and oil crises in the 1960s and the 1970s, its MAC is relatively high compared to those of Europe and the United States. For instance, an energy shift from coal to natural gas in England and the reunification of Germany occurred in the early 1990s so that the benchmark year of 1990 for GHG emissions reduction is favorable to these countries but unfavorable to Japan. The United States, which was the largest emitter of GHGs until China replaced it in around 2008, by not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, evaded international responsibility for reducing GHG emissions. However, Japan’s adherence to the issue of fairness vis-à-vis some European countries and the United States obscures a larger international issue of fairness and justice between more-developed and less-developed countries, for example, regarding the losses and damages caused by climate change. Moreover, the MAC argument focuses on short-term economic interests rather than long-term benefits of a stable climate. As a result, the Japanese government has not articulated any strategic climate change foreign policy to mediate the North–South divide and to mitigate and help less-developed countries adapt to climate change. Why is it so? It seems that the author argues that the policy coalition of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry with its energy agency and the energy intensive industries has dictated policymaking processes on climate change. The role of politicians is limited only to mediate severe conflict of interests between economy ministry and environment ministry. In addition, since the prime minister and environment minister change almost annually with few exceptions, they are not interested in making climate change an issue in a personal political agenda while facing many other competing policies that demand attention. Is the author suggesting that Japanese policymaking on climate change is a case that supports a bureaucratic dominant view or an ‘iron triangle’ model of explanation? It is unclear because a theoretical framework and an overall question are not articulated. The approach of this study is inductive and the content is descriptive but not analytical. Even though toward the end of each chapter the author provides the reader with a political and societal context for each period of time, referring to politicians and political parties, the industry sector, environmental NGOs, scientists, local governments, and the general public, some of the information is not necessarily relevant to the main issue and there is not enough information to help construct a cohesive argument to explain why the MAC framing has become dominant in Japan. Nevertheless, this is an excellent work with full of firsthand and reliable information and insights about both Japan’s domestic policymaking processes and its position in international negotiations on the issue of climate change. © The author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press in association with the Japan Association of International Relations; all rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Relations of the Asia-Pacific Oxford University Press

Climate Change Policy in Japan: From the 1980s to 2015

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press in association with the Japan Association of International Relations; all rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
1470-482X
eISSN
1470-4838
D.O.I.
10.1093/irap/lcx018
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This is a very timely book since the Paris Agreement set a direction for international cooperation to mitigate climate change. Its primary objective is to elucidate Japanese climate change policymaking processes, which are often opaque and enigmatic to foreign researchers and practitioners. The author states this is the only study in English dealing with the entire process of Japan’s involvement in this issue, from the late 1980s to today. Written by an expert who has been closely observing both Japan’s domestic climate change policymaking processes and international negotiations as a senior researcher of the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), it is certainly a valuable long-needed book. The author shows not only her expertise in clearly and concisely describing technical aspects of immensely complicated policymaking processes and international negotiations, but also treats the issues of climate change as a keen observer of fine sensibilities. As an epigraph of each chapter, she introduces a famous haiku for each season, which captures the general tone of the content. The haiku of Chapter 1 describes a quiet spring day which alludes to a slow start of things; that is, the introduction of how to frame the issues of climate change and to identifying various explanations of Japan’s policymaking processes as well as main policymakers such as prime minister and concerned ministers including environment, economy, and foreign affairs ministers. Chapter 2 deals with relatively active participation of Japanese policymakers in the negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or the glittering heyday of Japan’s climate diplomacy. However, Japan became very reluctant to engage in international negotiations toward the Kyoto Protocol despite it had hosted the third Conference of the Parties to UNFCCC to adopt it. Thus, the haiku of Chapter 3 describes the scene of an autumn night during which a child pesters the poet for getting the moon. The main theme of Chapter 4 is about setting concrete mid- and long-term targets of reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions about which Japan became laggard. The image of its haiku is that of a Japanese standing in a desolate, wintry field. Chapter 5 describes domestic politics and diplomacy of climate change after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear accidents in March 2011. Since electricity generation by nuclear power plants has substantially decreased, while electricity from fossil-fuel plants increased, CO2 (one of GHGs) emissions in Japan have greatly increased. Japan, further, has retreated from an active role in international efforts to mitigate climate change, as if it were looking upon ancient battles in the distance. The concluding chapter summarizes the author’s three decades of observation of Japan’s climate change policymaking processes. The main argument of this book is that framing climate change as an economic and energy issue has prevailed throughout the periods of observation over framing it as an environmental issue or a diplomatic/foreign policy issue in Japan. Above all, the core of this economic-and-energy framing of climate change is the marginal abatement cost (MAC) of reducing GHG emissions in Japan. Because Japan already achieved energy efficiency in the process of overcoming pollution problems and oil crises in the 1960s and the 1970s, its MAC is relatively high compared to those of Europe and the United States. For instance, an energy shift from coal to natural gas in England and the reunification of Germany occurred in the early 1990s so that the benchmark year of 1990 for GHG emissions reduction is favorable to these countries but unfavorable to Japan. The United States, which was the largest emitter of GHGs until China replaced it in around 2008, by not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, evaded international responsibility for reducing GHG emissions. However, Japan’s adherence to the issue of fairness vis-à-vis some European countries and the United States obscures a larger international issue of fairness and justice between more-developed and less-developed countries, for example, regarding the losses and damages caused by climate change. Moreover, the MAC argument focuses on short-term economic interests rather than long-term benefits of a stable climate. As a result, the Japanese government has not articulated any strategic climate change foreign policy to mediate the North–South divide and to mitigate and help less-developed countries adapt to climate change. Why is it so? It seems that the author argues that the policy coalition of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry with its energy agency and the energy intensive industries has dictated policymaking processes on climate change. The role of politicians is limited only to mediate severe conflict of interests between economy ministry and environment ministry. In addition, since the prime minister and environment minister change almost annually with few exceptions, they are not interested in making climate change an issue in a personal political agenda while facing many other competing policies that demand attention. Is the author suggesting that Japanese policymaking on climate change is a case that supports a bureaucratic dominant view or an ‘iron triangle’ model of explanation? It is unclear because a theoretical framework and an overall question are not articulated. The approach of this study is inductive and the content is descriptive but not analytical. Even though toward the end of each chapter the author provides the reader with a political and societal context for each period of time, referring to politicians and political parties, the industry sector, environmental NGOs, scientists, local governments, and the general public, some of the information is not necessarily relevant to the main issue and there is not enough information to help construct a cohesive argument to explain why the MAC framing has become dominant in Japan. Nevertheless, this is an excellent work with full of firsthand and reliable information and insights about both Japan’s domestic policymaking processes and its position in international negotiations on the issue of climate change. © The author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press in association with the Japan Association of International Relations; all rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

Journal

International Relations of the Asia-PacificOxford University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2018

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