Japan at COP25: Local and regional governments setting the path.

Togo Uchida

Executive Director, ICLEI Japan Office

COP25 comes at a complex time for Japan. Our country has been criticized for continuing to rely on coal, and our national government has yet to commit to an enhanced NDC, in line with IPCC 1.5 degrees report.

But something to understand about Japan is that while it may take our government a longer time to make decisions, there is a strong culture of pride around being able to meet commitments. So, to make an ambitious climate commitment – for example, to come to COP26 in 2020 with an enhanced NDC – means making sure the business and public buy-in is also there, before the promise gets made.

Which makes the response of our local governments so much more impressive. Yesterday, our Minister of Environment announced that 28 local and regional governments have committed to climate neutrality by 2050. The list includes some of our largest local and regional governments, such as Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka and Nagano, as well as iconic cities such as Kyoto and Yokohama. That’s a population of 45 million people, almost the same size as the country that’s hosting this COP25, Spain.

So it took courage for our local governments to make a commitment like this, because it’s not in our DNA to commit something that we are not sure of. Kyoto’s Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa was the first mayor in Japan to declare carbon neutrality by 2050. He understood that we are living in extraordinary times in this climate emergency, and we have to commit to this because we are “borrowing earth from our future generations.”

We are counting on our Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi to take this message from COP25 back to the national government, so that we can get to work on getting this done. Our local and regional governments in Japan have taken a risk, and now we have to work with our national government to create the conditions that are going to allow them to deliver on their promise.