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Kishida leaves for COP26 after election win

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida left Japan on Tuesday to attend the COP26 climate conference, just after his ruling party won Sunday’s general election and secured a mandate to pursue his policies.

The visit to Glasgow, Scotland, marks Kishida’s first overseas trip since becoming prime minister on Oct. 4. He succeeded Yoshihide Suga, who last year committed Japan to the goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Suga stepped down partly due to public discontent with his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I want to firmly convey to the world Japan’s strong resolve to exercise leadership toward zero emissions in Asia as a whole,” Kishida told reporters before his departure. He said he will share the steps Japan has been taking toward the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

His visit to Glasgow will be brief, however, as he will not stay overnight and plans to return to Tokyo on Wednesday to start work with his new team after the Liberal Democratic Party won 261 seats in Sunday’s 465-seat House of Representatives election.

Kishida said he plans to hold talks with leaders including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters at Haneda Airport in Tokyo just before boarding a government plane to head for Glasgow early Tuesday. | KYODO
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters at Haneda Airport in Tokyo just before boarding a government plane to head for Glasgow early Tuesday. | KYODO

Last month, Japan formally submitted to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 46% by fiscal 2030 compared with fiscal 2013 levels.

The new target, which goes beyond the previous commitment of a 26% cut, was pledged by Suga in April.

The two-week climate talks, formally the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties, began on Sunday to advance actions to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, with the leaders’ session running two days through Tuesday.

One of the main aims of the U.N. conference is to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 C from pre-industrial levels within reach, which scientists say will only be possible through the “most stringent” efforts to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Whether Kishida, a former long-serving foreign minister, will hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the conference remains unclear.

Kishida has voiced eagerness to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden in person but said he is seeking to visit the United States to do so. A day after taking office, he spoke with Biden by phone in his first conversation with a foreign leader as prime minister.

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