How Hiroshima became the first city in its region to prepare for a changing climate

To accelerate climate action and to protect residents from the negative impacts of climate change, the City of Hiroshima, Japan has set an ambitious long-term goal to cut emissions, while identifying ways to better prepare for intensifying climate risks. The city recently released a new climate action and adaptation plan which explains exactly how they intend to achieve this.

Located in western Japan, Hiroshima is the largest city in the Chugoku/Shikoku region with abundant nature. The city is surrounded by mountains and has six rivers traversing the heart of the city, which all flow into the Seto Inland Sea. Unlike many other regional cities in Japan, Hiroshima, a city of approximately 1.2 million people, is experiencing steady population and economic growth.

Hiroshima has been actively promoting climate action to achieve a sustainable society and world peace. The city had set a short-term target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent compared to 1990 levels, but due to population growth, economic recovery and revisions to the national energy policy after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the target could not be fully achieved.

At the same time, Hiroshima is already experiencing negative effects of climate change, which have directly impacted people’s lives. In August 2014, heavy rain hit the Hiroshima region and triggered a devastating landslide in which 77 people were killed and over 4,000 properties were damaged. Annual precipitation is expected to increase in the region within the century, and this event served as a wake-up call for the City to take a more effective and comprehensive approach to climate action.

To address these growing concerns, the City of Hiroshima developed a new climate action plan: Hiroshima City Action Plan for Global Warming Countermeasures: Towards a resilient, sustainable, low-carbon and energetic Hiroshima.” The plan was developed in consultation with the Hiroshima Environmental Advisory Board, composed of a multi-disciplinary group of local experts and city residents, representing diverse sectors of the community.

Recognizing that cities play a key role in accelerating climate action, the new plan sets a bold long-term target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 as compared to 2013 levels.

Another highlight of the plan is that it outlines actions that the city will take towards adapting to climate change, making Hiroshima the first city in the region to develop a climate adaptation plan. The plan identifies increasing frequency of heavy rain and flash floods and rising temperatures as climate hazards which could have significant human and economic impacts in Hiroshima. The city intends to reduce these risks by strengthening coordination of existing municipal efforts and taking into account climate adaptation in various urban development and infrastructure projects. Hiroshima also hopes to strengthen partnerships with universities and the national government to better understand and assess the impacts of climate change.

To overcome the challenges that the city previously faced, Hiroshima’s new plan focuses on enhancing cooperation with various stakeholders, including the private sector and other cities across the world, to accelerate climate action in the city. As one of over 7,100 cities committed to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, Hiroshima joins climate leaders across the globe in leading the way in addressing climate change.