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Japan’s Climate Change Discourse: Toward Climate Securitisation?

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Abstract:  This article situates Japan in the international climate security debate by analysing competing climate change discourses. In 2020, for the first time, the Japanese Ministry of the Environment included the term “climate crisis” (kikō kiki) in its annual white paper, and the Japanese parliament adopted a “climate emergency declaration” (kikō hijō jitai sengen). Does this mean that Japan’s climate discourse is turning toward the securitisation of climate change? Drawing on securitisation theory, this article investigates whether we are seeing the emergence of a climate change securitisation discourse that treats climate change as a security issue rather than a conventional political issue. The analysis focuses on different stakeholders in Japan’s climate policy: the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the parliament, the Cabinet, and sub- and non-state actors. Through a discourse analysis of ministry white papers and publications by other stakeholders, the article identifies a burgeoning securitisation discourse that challenges, albeit moderately, the status quo of incrementalism and inaction in Japan’s climate policy. This article further highlights Japan’s position in the rapidly evolving global debate on the urgency of climate action and provides explanations for apparent changes and continuities in Japan’s climate change discourse.

Keywords:  bureaucratic politics; civil society; climate; crisis; discourse; emergency; Japan; securitisation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v9i4.4419


© Florentine Koppenborg, Ulv Hanssen. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.