In recent years, the impact of the climate crisis has been evident in Japan. According to the May 2009 report, if no action is taken, Japan’s annual cost of the climate crisis could be as high as JPY17 trillion (approximately USD 124 billion) by the end of the 21st century. This economic cost includes damages from storms to local businesses and infrastructure and climate-related agricultural sector losses. Moreover, the Japanese tourism industry, central to the government’s economic growth strategy over the coming decades, will also be negatively affected by global warming. For example, between 2030 and 2050, the amount of snowfall and snow accumulation is expected to decrease dramatically, inflicting material damage to inbound tourism to both the main island of Honshu and the northern island of Hokkaido, home to some of the world’s most famous and visited ski areas.
One of the most affected areas by climate change is now and will be agriculture in a country that already has a dangerously low agricultural self-sufficiency rate of 37% and an alarmingly acute reduction in the number of agricultural workers, down 20% over the last five years and by as much as two-thirds since 1980 when it was approaching its population peak.
In 2018, the Ministry of Environment reported that Japan recorded annual temperatures rising faster than the global average. Hotter temperatures can harm produce in several ways, such as burning, discoloration, etc. Increased temperatures can also lead to major problems with the staple crop, rice, causing cracked grains and major milling issues. Animal products are, of course, negatively affected as well. For example, higher temperature decreases the production of milk, beef, pork, and poultry. More broadly speaking, rising temperatures also can cause material shifts in the timing of the harvesting of crops. One example would be the famous apple orchards of Northern Honshu, which expect major disruptions to their output amounts and timing by the mid-century if temperatures continue to rise as expected.
Beyond agriculture, all Japanese industries are exposed to a wide array of climate-related risks, such as increased flooding, typhoon frequency and strength, droughts, etc. causing major disruptions in supply chains that have ramifications on the global economy. While companies are currently making the best effort to understand these imminent risks, managing them and adapting to them will be a huge financial burden over the coming decades with no guarantee that efforts will yield desired results.
Adaptation initiatives by the Japanese government
Japan’s National Adaptation Plan was approved as a cabinet resolution in November 2015 and covers the basic direction each major sector needs to go in addressing the impact of climate change. Since then, government agencies have planned and implemented a number of adaptation measures in their respective areas of responsibility.
Moreover, in December 2018, the Japanese Climate Change Adaptation Act came into force to clarify the Japanese legal status of such adaptation measures. The Act:
- Clarifies national and local governments, businesses, and citizens’ roles in adapting to climate change.
- Prescribes that government shall prepare a National Adaptation Plan to promote adaptation measures in agriculture, disaster prevention, and other fields.
- Authorizes that the Ministry of Environment shall measure climate change impact once every five years and modify the Plan appropriately.
Since climate change impacts differ from region to region, the Climate Change Adaptation Act aims to encourage local governments to have their adaptation plans and establish local climate change adaptation centers. With their own centers, local and regional governments can collect and analyze data related to climate change’s impact on their own region.
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This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Japan Country Manager James Hawrylak