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Editorial: Paris Agreement ratification delay would be embarrassment for Japan

The Paris Agreement, a new international framework to fight global warming, comes into force on Nov. 4 to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

By Oct. 5, 73 countries and the European Union, which account for over 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, had ratified the accord, meeting the conditions for the pact to take effect. Based on this historic agreement, progress has begun toward a global society that does not rely on fossil fuels.

However, it is regrettable that Japan, which emits the fifth largest amount of greenhouse gases in the world, has been slow to go through the necessary procedures to ratify the Paris Agreement, failing to help bring the pact into force.

The first Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1) will take place simultaneously with the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change that starts on Nov. 7 in Morocco to begin work to draft detailed rules.

However, no party has any say in CMA1 unless 30 days have passed since it ratified the agreement.

The government is scheduled to approve a plan to ratify the Paris Agreement at a Cabinet meeting on Oct. 11 and complete the ratification procedure during the current Diet session. However, Japan is highly unlikely to ratify the pact in time for CMA1. The government explains that even if Japan's ratification of the agreement were to be delayed, it would not adversely affect future negotiations on global warming countermeasures. However, Japan apparently could not take the initiative in working out rules under the new accord.

Japan played a leading role in adopting the Kyoto Protocol at COP3 in Kyoto in December 1997, and had a say in working out rules under the pact. Tokyo's response to the Paris Agreement could give the international community the impression that Japan is unenthusiastic about preventing global warming.

It is obvious that neither the ruling nor opposition parties disagree about ratifying the pact. Legislators should place top priority on ratifying the Paris Agreement during the ongoing extraordinary Diet session and swiftly complete the procedure.

The Paris Agreement was adopted at COP21 held in Paris in December 2015. The accord sets the goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions effectively to zero on a global scale by the end of the 21st century in order to hold a rise in the average global temperature from the pre-industrial era to below 2 degrees. The pact obligates each party to draw up measures to cut back on their greenhouse gas emissions, review the measures every five years and beef up their content.

It took more than seven years for the Kyoto Protocol to take effect from the time it was adopted. In sharp contrast, the Paris Agreement is set to go into effect less than one year after it was adopted.

It became certain that the new accord will take effect at an early date after the United States and China, the two largest greenhouse gas-emitting countries, announced simultaneously in September that they had ratified the pact. Other signatories subsequently rushed to ratify the agreement.

In a rare move, the EU ratified the Paris Agreement before its member countries completed their domestic procedures so as not to fall behind other countries and regions in international negotiations on global warming countermeasures. It had been initially believed that it would take a long time before the EU ratified the pact, as the union usually ratifies a treaty after all its member countries have completed their respective domestic procedures.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not mention the Paris Agreement in his policy speech at the outset of the ongoing extraordinary Diet session on Sept. 26, in sharp contrast to other countries that hurried to ratify the accord. The government's response to the accord has raised concerns that Japan will be left lagging behind the international trend of prioritizing combatting global warming.

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