Climate Talks Need All Major Countries, Japan Minister Says

(Bloomberg) — All major countries need to play a role in
United Nations-sponsored climate talks later this year in Paris
to ensure the integrity of the process, Japan’s new environment
minister said.

“The framework for 2020 and after should involve
participation by all major countries and should be fair and
effective,” Tamayo Marukawa said in a group interview Thursday
in Tokyo. “It’s a very important rule-making process and we
would like to continue to make that point.”

The appointment of Marukawa was announced Wednesday as part
of a broader cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as
he seeks to revive the economy.

Japan’s commitment to combat climate change will be tested
later this year as envoys gather in Paris in December seeking to
reach a global climate deal. Japan’s pledge to reduce greenhouse
gases by 26 percent by 2030 from 2013 levels has been criticized
by environmental groups as too timid.

Marukawa, a 44-year-old former broadcaster, could bring her
communication skills to the job, according to at least one
academic in Japan.

Main Task

“One main international task will be to show that Japan is
still a serious player in climate change,” Andrew DeWit, a
political economy professor at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, said
by e-mail.  “Perhaps Marukawa’s impact will be as the
personality that helped make Japan visible again in climate
policy and politics at a time when all eyes are on China, India,
U.S., and Japan seems a sideshow.”

Still, some question whether the new minister has the
needed background for the task. Since elected to the Diet in
2007, Marukawa’s political appointments have been largely
limited to labor issues, therefore her lack of experience in
energy and environmental issues may pose some challenges.

The UN climate talks are the kind of meeting “that requires
high-level knowledge even at minister levels,” said Naoyuki
Yamagishi, who leads the climate and energy group of WWF Japan.
“I am a bit concerned if the minister can exercise leadership
immediately after just taking office now.”

At home, Marukawa will need to contend with some of the
energy-related issues facing Japan after the Fukushima disaster
in March 2011. The ministry and others are already moving
against coal, while there have been other developments within
the ruling party regarding energy efficiency and renewable
energy, Rikkyo’s DeWit said.

“Perhaps she may become an effective exponent of these
facts that are receiving inadequate attention domestically and
internationally,” DeWit said.

Marukawa’s predecessor, Yoshio Mochizuki, began pushing
back in recent months at plans to build new coal-fired power
plants, saying the projects may threaten Japan’s efforts to cut
emissions. Still, the trade and industry ministry has sole
discretion to grant building approvals.

“It is important for the environment minister to have the
guts to express her opinions to industries,” to put a brake on
the increasing number of coal plans, WWF’s Yamagishi said. The
minister would also have to exercise leadership in drawing up
plans for climate-change measures once an agreement is reached
in Paris, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Chisaki Watanabe in Tokyo at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Reed Landberg at
Iain Wilson, Abhay Singh

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