Japan's Cabinet approves climate change plan

The Sai no Kizuna rice, which was developed to resist high temperatures and typhoons, is one such adaptation to climate-change related phenomena.
The Sai no Kizuna rice, which was developed to resist high temperatures and typhoons, is one such adaptation to climate-change related phenomena.PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

TOKYO (WASHINGTON POST) - Japan's Cabinet approved a climate change adaptation plan on Tuesday (Nov 27) that is aimed at countering the dangers caused by global warming, including disasters and the impact on farm produce.

The adaptation plan - a revision of an earlier plan drawn up in 2015 - was compiled ahead of the December effectuation of the Climate Change Adaptation Law, which is aimed at creating a society that can keep up with the progression of global warming.

Global warming can be countered through mitigation, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and adaptation, by reducing the impact of global warming.

The new plan will make clear which measures will be carried out by which ministry or agency.

For developing countries that are susceptible to the effects of global warming, the government will also set up a framework to utilise Japan's technological strength and scientific knowledge to forecast the impact in the Asia-Pacific region and support their efforts towards adaptation.

Accordingly, the government will set up a panel to promote adaptation with the participation of relevant ministries and agencies. The panel, to be headed by the environment minister, is scheduled to hold its first meeting next Monday (Dec 3).

Ahead of the enforcement of the Climate Change Adaptation Law, the central government and local authorities are already taking steps to protect farm produce from climate change-related phenomena such as record-breaking torrential rain and extreme heat.

Uwajima, in western Japan, was hit by landslides amid heavy rain in July.

"In recent years, droughts and heavy rain have intensified tremendously," said Mr Keiro Wada, chief of the city government's agricultural and forestry section.

Mr Shinji Ninomiya, a 38-year-old tangerine farmer in the city, saw his 100 sq m field of trees swept away by a landslide. Landslides have occurred three or four times in the last decade and it takes three years to produce the fruit from seedlings, he said.

"We can't prevent it from happening because our field is on a mountain slope," he lamented.

In an effort to prevent future damage, the city government and the prefectural government are considering a plan to build an agricultural park near the mountain summit, where there is little possibility of a landslide.

 
 
 

The Saitama prefectural government has developed Sai no Kizuna, a high quality variety of rice resistant to high temperatures. The rice plant is about 15cm shorter than that of the well-known Koshihikari variety, making it resistant to typhoons.

Rice farmers have been able to produce Sai no Kizuna even in intense heat.

"By continuing to make modifications, we hope to develop a variety that won't be affected by weather," said  Mr Makoto Arakawa, 49, of the prefecture's Saitama Agricultural Technology Research Centre.

In addition to developing varieties resistant to heat, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry is checking the water retention capabilities of paddy fields as a measure to cope with heavy rain.

"If we can learn the amount of water that can be retained, inundation can be delayed, reducing damage to residential areas and elsewhere," a ministry official in charge said.

The ministry is also studying how to strengthen soil layers, to prevent fertile soil from getting washed away by heavy rain.

A special report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October stated that the world's average temperature has already risen by about 1 deg C from the level before the Industrial Revolution.

If the warming continues, the figure could climb another 1.5 deg C between 2030 and 2052. The UN body has listed possible effects of global warming based on temperature increases.

"It's important to implement measures that fully consider precipitation patterns and temperature fluctuations," said Takasaki City University of Economics' Professor Takeshi Mizuguchi, who specialises in measures to counter global warming.