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70% of prefectures have not set up legally required centers to fight climate change

TOKYO -- Almost 70 percent of Japan's 47 prefectural governments have not compiled plans to set up regional climate change adaptation centers as required under a new law for the promotion of measures to mitigate damage from global warming, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has found.

Prefectural officials cited difficulty in securing experts to staff such facilities or cooperating with research organizations to create the centers, which are stipulated by the Climate Change Adaptation Act that went into effect in December 2018.

Under the law, the central government is required to create an adaptation plan and review it every five years. The legislation comes in response to increasing natural disasters, adverse health effects and deterioration in the quality of agricultural products due to global warming. The first such plan was approved by the Cabinet in November 2018. Local governments are encouraged to adopt regional mitigation plans and develop centers to manage adaptive steps taken to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The poll was conducted in November 2018, before the law's enforcement, and received responses from all prefectural governments. According to the results, the governments of only three prefectures -- Saitama north of Tokyo, Nagano in central Japan and Tokushima in western Japan -- or 6.4 percent of the total, said they already had facilities with functions equivalent to such a center.

Seven prefectures, including Iwate in northeastern Japan and Nagasaki in southern Japan, or 14.9 percent, said they decided to establish such facilities after the law's implementation. Thirty-two prefectural governments, such as Tokyo and Wakayama in western Japan -- 68.1 percent -- said they wanted to introduce such centers eventually, but had no concrete plans to do so.

When asked for the reasons behind not compiling detailed plans for climate change mitigation centers, officials of the Chiba Prefectural Government, east of Tokyo, explained that finding people with expert knowledge is a challenge, among other factors. Meanwhile, Nara Prefectural Government officials, located in western Japan, replied that they do not have an existing organization capable of carrying out the functions of such a center. Many prefectural officials pointed to a need for support in finding the right people and getting funding to carry out activities.

Associate professor Makoto Tamura of Ibaraki University, an environment policy specialist, pointed out that many local governments "understand the need for adaptation measures, but may have not been able to narrow down the issues they need to tackle."

Tamura said that the impact of climate change is already apparent, and prefectural governments "can start discussing mitigation measures not by waiting for data such as expert impact forecasts, but by sharing information concerning changes and damage reported by local residents."

(Japanese original by Ai Oba, Science & Environment News Department)

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