Contextual Climatological and Political Background Shape Election Narratives
Prior to the assassination of the former Prime Minister of Japan on July 8th, Shinzo Abe, and following the decisive victory of Fumio Kishida on July 10th, contrasting political dynamics over the economy, security, and energy sectors, directed by the Russian-Ukraine war, shaped the electoral narratives.
All three sectors espouse a form of security concern relative to both the ongoing war in Ukraine and the Climate War; with simultaneous effects of the Russian-Ukraine war on climate change.
The Climate War or the war on climate is understood as the political tussle between states and the environment over the multidimensional effects of climate change. The inauguration of programs and initiatives to fight climate change are introduced as imperatives within the war on climate narrative.
For Japan, the war on climate derives from the explicit climatological consequences experienced since the early 1970s with increased occurrence of extreme precipitation and severity of typhoons. The conundrum lies not in the projection capabilities but the infrastructural and economic burden of an increase in natural disasters.
In 2018, the prefecture of Kumamoto experienced heavy precipitation resulting in 105 rivers overflowing and 316 mudslides, costing the Abe government over ¥556 billion. Shinzo Abe’s government pledged over ¥400 billion (over CAD 375 billion) in climate-related aid to reinforce the risk-management infrastructures in Japan.
Currently juggling the consequences of the Russian-Ukraine war on energy and commodity prices; one major aspect of Kishida’s campaign, and the exacerbating effects of climate change affecting agricultural production, Japan faces political demand for environmental assessment from Youth groups.
For instance, the Katsuo fish industry, a staple for sushi and Japanese cuisine, and the wasabi industry have slashed production rates by 70% and experienced a 75% decrease in farmers given depopulation and the rise of water temperatures. It impacts the local production and the overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
On July 6, the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) announced the risk of floods, landslides, strong winds, lightning, tornadoes, and other climatic byproducts resulting from the most intense heat wave in 150 years. The heat wave triggered torrential rains in the North of the country with occurring storm warnings. Fearing a potential electricity outage, the Kishida government urged, as Philippe Mesmer states:
“Businesses and individuals to reduce their energy consumption between 3pm and 6pm. Mr. Kishida announced on July 1 the distribution of “points” worth 2,000 yen (14 euros) to households participating in a nationwide “energy saving program,” to be used as vouchers.”
The call for the reduction of energy consumption is bolstered by the side effects of the Russian-Ukraine war’s toll on the energy sector, and the increased inflation. This shapes the narratives and ideological standpoints between the national, international, and regional politics in Japan.
Inflation and Poverty
In the midst of the Russian-Ukraine war, Abe’s traditional Abenomics and strive for the strengthening of national security resulted in budgetary allocation of 2.7 trillion yen to soften gasoline and commodity product prices.
The deflationary nature of Abenomics, under the three arrows–structural reform, fiscal expansion, and unconventional monetary policy, has contributed to economic malaise for which Kishida intends to gradually dismantle. Shinzo Abe’s economic modus operandi centered on substantial government spending to “pull back Japan out of chronic deflation”, ultimately making it far more challenging for monetary allocation with unanticipated natural disasters.
The Kishida government intends to normalize two of the three arrows, the monetary and fiscal policies, of Abenomics by slowly disabling spending within the energy and raw material industries, resulting from the impacts of COVID-19 and the Russian-Ukraine War. This shifts the balance of power and the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) intimate relationship within the economic administration because of Abe’s death.
The inflation conundrum incentivized the Kishida administration to campaign in favor of government spending-cuts to, indirectly, pay off the nation’s debt. Kishida’s electoral campaigning did not discount Abe’s economics, in fact, in a statement, Kishida said that:
“When we look at Japan’s gross domestic product, corporate profits and job conditions, it’s clear Abenomics has produced great results. What’s important now is to generate wage growth,”
Military Expenditure and Defence
The electoral narratives on defence and military expenditure interplay with inflation, rising gas prices, and regional security concerns affecting Japan’s national budget allocation.
On July 19, the Nikkei report revealed the omission of a fiscal ceiling budget on military expenditure over tensions over the Taiwan problem. The Kishida administration pledged an increase in the military budget from 1% of the GDP to 2%. The similarities between the Taiwan issue and Russia-Ukraine hypes up the tensions in neighboring countries suffering from geopolitical disagreements.
Whether the Kishida administration will ratify the increase in military expenditure is to be determined by the end of the month. Meanwhile, Chinese delegates, namely Wang Wenbin, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, have questioned Japan’s actions by stating that:
“We urge Japan to stop hyping the security threats in its neighborhoods to justify its own military buildup.”
During a speech stating Japan’s future involvement in the NATO summit in late July, Kishida stated that:
“The current rise in prices is having a great impact on the lives of people and the activities of businesses […] “I hope that the BOJ [Band of Japan Governor] will continue its efforts toward achieving its sustainable, stable price target.”
Such a statement merges the question of sustainability, in terms of energy, with growing security and transboundary economic implications from abroad.
The revival of the nuclear age derives from the assumption that nuclear energy solves the energy crisis. With the Russia-Ukraine war exacerbating the weight of inflation on gas and commodity prices, Japan is seeking to compensate for energy reliance, under the Kishida administration.
On July 20, a press release reaffirmed the Kishida administration’s push for re-nuclearization, post-shutdown of the Fukushima reactor in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami. This narrative encompasses the general public’s sentiment of reliance on external resources for energy and its vulnerability to the volatility of the international markets. For Japan’s energy market to resurge, the belief is that the renewal of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) will jump start the sector.
The dilemma that the Kishida administration faces is the legislative difficulties of restarting the nuclear sector. As MENAFN reports:
“This leaves renewable energy and CCUS as the best options to pursue.”
Whether nuclear energy is sustainable or not is debatable and falls prey to socio-political framing of sustainable energy in the short and long-run.
Nonetheless, an important facet of sustainability lies in ecosystem awareness. On July 22, OutLookIndia reported Japan’s approval of radioactive water waste containing tritium into the sea. Although the company, TEPCO, involved pledged transparency in reports and adherence to international radiation monitoring standards, it accentuates Japan’s Greens’ concerns.
Green Party Commentary
Japan’s Greens urged the Kishida administration to reconsider the implications of nuclear energy renewal in the midst of the Russia-Ukraine war’s economic byproducts. The electoral narratives favor the Kishida administration in their pursuit of economic prosperity to turn the social economy around.
For the House of Council to consider the sustainable aspect of the energy shift, the Japan Greens presented a policy agreement to entice the proliferation of green ideology within the government by stating that:
“We need to build a sustainable world and a solidarity society for the future.”