The Climate Change Adaptation Law

Spotlight Activity: The Climate Change Adaptation Law

The bill adopted by the cabinet in February, so called “Climate change adaptation law”, has passed the Diet on June 6th. This new law aims at legally defining adaptation strategy and promoting it in cooperation with local governments and private sector. Prior to the law, climate policy in Japan was limited to the Act on Promotion of Global Warming Countermeasures enacted in 1998, which solely focuses on mitigation effort. In recent years, however, we have seen severe effects of climate change all over Japan. As a result, adaptation strategy is becoming more and more important. This law requires that the government set up a national plan for adaptation and call for local governments to make their own plans according to their circumstances.

There are four pillars in this law:
1) comprehensive adaptation program;
2) information platform;
3) adaptation in local areas; and
4) international actions.

As briefly mentioned above, the law requires the central government to develop national adaptation plan for the first pillar. The cabinet has already adopted the “National plan for adaptation to the impacts of climate change” in 2015, but it will be reviewed. The law also requests the minister of the environment to be responsible for assessing the effects of climate change every five years. As for the second pillar, National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES) was selected as the national hub for collecting and providing data related to the impacts of or adaptation to climate change. Prefectures and city governments are obligated to research the effects of climate change on the local scale in order to adjust adaptation strategy to the unique condition of each place. This corresponds to the third pillar. Finally, to promote international cooperation in the field of adaptation, the government is encouraging private companies to start “adaptation businesses”.

Nevertheless, there are some limitations to this law. To begin with, it is difficult for multiple stakeholders to efficiently share their resources and to prevent NIES, the central institution appointed by the government, from carrying too much of a burden. Also, the criteria for evaluating outcomes of the adaptation plan are still unclear. In addition to the issue in its structure, financial constraints are problematic for the implementation of the law. The cost for the adaptation plan is not yet estimated, and private fund should be seriously considered.

Status: Right Direction

This law is a great first step to advance efforts for climate change adaptation. Since the effects of natural disasters are getting more and more severe, including the floods that happened just two weeks ago, adaptation strategy is increasingly important. We hope this law will accelerate adaptation efforts taken by both central and local governments.

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