Fukushima: stick to the root

According to the US Geological Survey, a magnitude 6.9-earthquake struck Japan on November 21. The quake hit off the northeastern coast near Fukushima Prefecture (Figure 1). “Almost 80,000 households suffered from initial blackouts” and “a handful of light injuries were reported”, CNN (Tokyo) said. Honestly, such slight damages caused by such a strong earthquake did not surprise me since I was taught from a young age that Japan has a great resilience to earthquakes.


Figure 1 A map showing the epicenter of an earthquake recorder off Japan on Nov. 21, 2016. (Source)

My impression about Fukushima

My impression about that Japan has a great resilience to earthquakes was learned from Chinese media. From the comments of the media, Japanese reaction to earthquake is always in time, fast and well-organized resulting in less loss which is usually ascribed by Chinese media to the well design of constructions in Japan. However, I realized that in addition to the design, a series of factors determine the resilience of a city to earthquake.

Factor 1: Government Regulations and Politics

In 1924, earthquake resistant construction regulations were introduced requiring a minimum thickness for wooden beams, braces and reinforced concrete. Later in 1950, the Building Standards Act was carried out and in the following years, the standards have been improved several times.


Figure 2 A building with exterior earthquake retrofitting in Japan (Source)

Besides, a book Disaster management and civil society: Earthquake relief in Japan, Turkey and India introduces that Japanese government also set up emergency disaster relief center within the National Land Agency and Self Defense Forces (SDF) which can effectively and instantly deploy rescuer operations right after the earthquake to minimize the loss.


Figure 3 Emergency teams head towards rescue operations in Japan (Source

Factor 2: Disaster Assistance and Compensation

How fast the economy can be recovered determine the economic resilience of the city. According to Ministry of Finance Japan, reinsurance premiums which are paid by the government to reinsure the earthquake insurance liabilities are collected and managed in the Special Account that will pay out to private insurance companies when massive earthquakes occur.

Factor 3: Local Communities

Local communities learned many lessons from the history and naturally became experienced in preparing for earthquakes or coping with the aftermath. For example, the private schools or local communities sometime collaborating with the local fire department regularly organize activities to introduce to children about how to survive from earthquakes, such as familiarizing them with the sensation of being in an earthquake through taking them into earthquake simulation machines (Figure 4).


Figure 4 Visitors are experiencing earthquake simulation machines in Ikebukuro Life Safety Learning Center (Source)

Relocating VS Rebuilding

Relocating and rebuilding are compared in various ways including economic status, population, local ecology, natural resources, short term cost and long term benefits, etc. Relocating is the fastest way to settle down the victims and it effectively avoids the damages of aftershocks or even the threats from the future earthquakes. However, relocating is more practical for a city with a small population, scarce natural resources, and poor economic base and ecological environment. Relocation of a big population produces huge costs and likely creates conflicts between new comers and locals. On the other hand, the cost of rebuilding sometimes could be high but the other values need to be paid attentions when analyzing if rebuilding is worth. In this case, Fukushima has a big population, good economic base, and acceptable ecological environment; obviously, victims are not willing to give up all these values, and what they will focus on is rebuilding the city with a high resilience to the earthquakes.



Paris Agreement: A good deal for us?

What is the Paris Outcome

21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) produced an agreement likely shaping our world over the coming decades in terms of economy, energy consumption pattern, and environment.

  • Economy: The economic measure will help to shape the both global and regional economy through two ways: strengthening support to developing nations and refining the cities and provinces to companies and investors aligning including green stock markets and funds. According to UNFCCC, governments will devote greater efforts in supporting developing countries to build their own clean, climate-resilient futures, and a clear roadmap on climate finance is showed to ratchet up to USD 100 billion by 2020.
  • Energy consumption pattern: Since fossil fuels on which most of the countries are heavily relying are major sources contributing to Green House Gases (GHGs) emissions, countries support expanded use of renewable energy sources. According to EIA, renewable energy becomes the fastest-growing energy source at a rate of 2.6%/year, and it is expected to increase in 30 year (Figure 1).


    Figure 1  World net electircity generation by energy source, 2012-40 (source)

  • Environment: The primary effect by the Paris Agreement on environment is CO2 emission which is linked to global temperature, sea level, and a series of environmental factors. According to analysis on CO2 emissions by International Energy Agency (IEA) (2016), global emissions of CO2 remained essentially flat at 32.1 billion tonnes since 2013 (Figure 2). Based on this trend, global CO2 emission reaches a peak and it is expected to decrease in the future.


    Figure 2 Global energy-related CO2 emissions, 1975-2015 (source)

Challenges faced by Paris Agreement 

Notwithstanding 195 countries agree to abate the climate change by controlling the CO2 emission, it is hard to clarify the responsibility of each country in coping with the climate change. Admittedly, the developed countries such as the U.S., German, and France should take more responsibility in cutting CO2 emissions since they had accumulatively emitted bigger amounts of GHGs than developing countries. However, the responsibility varies as the globally economical construction changes. According to report conducted by Chinese Academic of Social Science (CASS) (2015), with a transfer of large scale of low-end manufacturing from developed to developing countries, the share of developing economies in world output increased from 19% in 2000 to more than 37% by 2015. In this case, developed countries become conservative in willingness of funding, action to cut emission and international trading, resulting in a higher demand to developing countries in terms of cutting emissions. However developing countries may not have a higher willingness to contribute more in cutting emissions, which may lead the COP21 agenda to an impasse.

Regional effects in Hong Kong (HK), China

The UNFCCC was extended to HK as a part of the People’s Republic of China. HK is obliged to play a part to fulfill the obligations imposed upon China. Basically, the Paris Agreement impacts HK in a top-down effect from government to private sector.  According to Hong Kong Climate Change Report conducted by Environment Bureau, HK is planning to fulfill its obligations through cutting CO2 emission, adapting to climate change and strengthen climate change resilience. It is worth to mention that HK launched a Carbon Footprint Repository for Listed Companies in Hong Kong, which enables listed companies to disclose their carbon footprints as a result of their business operations and share successful stories on carbon management and practices (Figure 3).


Figure 3 Carbon Footprint Repository for Hong Kong Listed Companies Launching Ceremony (source)