From Kyoto to Glasgow: is Japan a climate leader?

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The term ‘climate leadership’ became popular in the 1990s, in relation to international negotiations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental mitigations. Since that time, international attention – borne out by scientific study and a rapidly changing planetary climate - has shifted from global warming, the ozone layer and greenhouse gas emissions, to energy production, scientific innovation, and, by the 2020s, a strong focus on decarbonisation and securing net zero carbon output by the middle of the century. One important strand of negotiation has been the annual Conferences of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which has witnessed different states playing lead roles at different times. By interrogating the main academic debates about climate leadership, this article examines Japan’s participation in the COP process along a structural-normative axis. In so doing, it charts the path from Japan’s apparent success at Kyoto in 1997 and its growing green reputation, to its subsequent ‘fall from green’ in later years and in the wake of COP26 in 2021.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages33
JournalPacific Review
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2021


  • Conference of the Parties (COP)
  • Japan
  • Kyoto Protocol
  • climate change
  • leadership


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