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Politics

Editorial: Asia must pull its weight in pursuit of the Paris climate goals

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The Eiffel Tower is illuminated in green with the words "Paris Agreement is done" on Nov. 4, the day the climate change framework took effect.   © Reuters

It is no secret that Asia accounts for a large portion of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Now that the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change has kicked in, the region shares the responsibility for making it work.

The pact, which took effect on Nov. 4, is the first international framework to involve virtually every country -- from advanced economies such as the U.S., Japan and European nations to emerging giants and developing markets. China, the world's No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gases, is on board, as is No. 4 polluter India.

On Nov. 7, delegates gathered in Morocco for the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP22. The session is scheduled to run through Nov. 18, with a focus on drawing up specific rules for implementing the Paris accord.

Although the Paris Agreement sets out global warming countermeasures for the period from 2020 onward, there is plenty of work to do right away.

The stated goal is to hold the increase in the global average temperature to "well below" 2 C, compared with preindustrial levels. The pact also calls for efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 C. To hit these targets, countries will have to cut their output of heat-trapping gases to virtually zero in the latter half of this century. The voluntary emissions reduction targets submitted by individual governments so far are insufficient.

The Paris Agreement calls on participants to set increasingly ambitious reduction targets every five years, with preparatory work scheduled to get fully underway in 2018. The sooner governments start compiling data and studying new targets in cooperation with industry, the better.

Individual countries are also required to submit, by 2020, long-term strategies to tackle global warming by mid-century. At the Group of Seven summit held in Ise-Shima, Japan, earlier this year, the leaders of major countries agreed to shorten the time frame for submitting these strategies.

COMING AROUND Until recently, emerging economies -- particularly in Asia -- had been wary of making climate commitments, lest doing so hinder their development. So their shift in attitude, apparently driven by an increase in extreme weather, is noteworthy.

The Chinese government, for instance, has named global warming one of its major policy challenges, along with worsening air pollution. China is expanding its use of nuclear and renewable energy, including solar, as part of its efforts to reduce emissions.

India, meanwhile, launched an International Solar Alliance with France last year, aiming to boost generation capacity in sunny, low-latitude developing countries and elsewhere. The alliance seeks to raise $1 trillion in funds by 2030.

Emerging countries are essential partners in the fight against climate change, and developed Asian economies like Japan should offer active support while striving to hit their own targets. This would bring the goals of the Paris accord a little closer to reality.

Advanced green technology will be a decisive factor -- and crucial for maintaining business competitiveness. Demand for such technology is sure to increase in the emerging world, creating huge opportunities. Policymakers need to create an environment that is conducive to investment and innovation.

Market mechanisms for carbon emissions trading are also an effective means for curbing greenhouse gases, and Asian states such as China and South Korea have already begun introducing them. Japan, too, should explore this option as soon as possible.

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