Protecting the Next Generation of Skiers: The Need for Renewable Energy in Japan’s Ski Resorts

This International Earth Day, the Rhythm Japan team has been contemplating the future of our beloved resorts and the cherished bottomless powder snow. Will our children have the same opportunity to enjoy these resorts as we did, or will they roll their eyes when we reminisce about the good old days when it snowed for 100 days straight and buried cars overnight?

The latest temperature predictions for the Kutchan area are concerning, with winter temperatures expected to increase by 4.7 degrees by 2100. As NEP’s Phil Howel succinctly put it, “In Kutchan, the number of winter days (days with minimum temperature below 0°C) is expected to decrease by about 54 days a year, and the number of mid-winter days (days with maximum temperature below 0°C) is expected to decrease by about 47 days a year. In other words, the number of winter days will be about 70% of the current number, and the number of mid-winter days will be about 30% of the current number.”

These statistics paint a bleak picture for the winter industry for future generations, and it is just a small part of a much larger picture with serious global implications in the long-term.

We spoke with Niseko Eco Project’s Wakana Yokoo and the Protect Our Winter’s team to learn more about how we can spread the message and make changes to ensure that future generations can enjoy our mountains, and the planet, as much as we do now.

 

Niseko Eco Project founder Wanaka and her husband Phil /Image source Facebook

 

1.Which sources of renewable energy have already been applied to Japanese ski resorts, and how is it expected to grow in the future?

Wanaka: At the Hakuba Happo One ski resort, they run 68% of chairlifts with 100% renewable energy. I only know a little about the detail in Hakuba, but I’m hoping resorts in Niseko can copy what they are doing. I am ready to introduce POW people to any resorts in the Niseko area interested in following Hakuba’s steps.  

 

 


 

The availability of renewable energy sources depends on the region. Solar and wind power are subject to natural variations, while hydro, geothermal, and biomass are more stable. The Niseko area in Japan has potential for geothermal and hot spring heat as well as abundant biomass resources. Using local resources for biomass power generation can benefit the environment and the local economy, but it is important to maintain and regenerate forests for carbon-neutral practices. It is necessary to reduce the use of fossil fuels and decrease CO2 emissions through energy use as a whole. -POW Japan

 


 

2. Niseko-cho is currently committed to the first 13 SDGs. Which ones would you advocate for with the NEP? Do you think that could help to get support from the government and further promote the project?

Wanaka: We set up Niseko Eco Project to be a platform to connect people who are interested in solving climate change. We want people to use our Facebook group to share the information. If people in the group are interested in getting government support, that’s possible. However, I would like to collaborate more with the local town council and schools, as I believe that’s my strength.

3. What level of involvement and action would you need from the government, the local community, and companies to help make this happen?

 Wanaka: I feel that rather than the support from the government, we need to keep working on letting our government understand the urgency of climate change. Thus, we organised a protest in Sapporo to raise our voices to Japan and G7 leaders last weekend. We were interviewed by five different media and even met one of the delegates from Germany. We just need to keep going till government start working with urgency, and we don’t have much time left, unfortunately. 

 

Image/Noriko Nakamura(source:Facebook) at G7 Climate March in April 16 2023 at Sapporo, Hokkaido

 

4. What are the main costs and timeline for pushing this through?

 Wanaka: According to the Climate Clock, we only have six years to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. The Climate Clock counts down the critical time window to reach zero emissions (our “Deadline”). The Japanese government hasn’t even clarified the coal exit’s timeline. Without a clear timeline to completely eliminate coal use, those favouring a deadline argue that it will be impossible to meet the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels by the mid century. We must work together to push the Japanese government to exit coal immediately. There will be a G7 summit in Hiroshima next month. I don’t know what we will do as NEP, but I will be working with Fridays for Future and 350.org for sure to appeal to the government. 

 

5. How do you think switching to renewable energy would help the resort and its users?

Wanaka: We need snow to enjoy our beloved snowsports and lifestyle. However, what we do is destroying our future. Why don’t we use renewable energy for our chairlifts, businesses, accommodations, houses, schools etc.? And rather be a part of the solution? We need to change in order to protect our winter and the peace. 

 

We need to preserve our winters

 



The transition to renewable energy involves various costs, including installation and connection costs. The burden of these costs is a challenge, and it is crucial to accelerate the expansion of renewable energy to address the climate crisis. Governments or local authorities can take on initial installation costs, while end-users can pay for usage in the future. Expanding renewable energy can reduce the amount of money flowing overseas to purchase fossil fuels, prevent natural disasters, and reduce associated human and financial costs. It is important to explain these benefits to encourage a positive attitude towards renewable energy expansion.
-POW Japan

 


 

6. How long have you been involved with the Niseko Eco Project?

Wanaka:  My husband Phil and I funded the NEP in 2020 as a platform to connect people and share information. Everyone is welcome to use our platform to work toward solving the climate emergency. I feel like there are still so many people in this town who do not think climate change is an emergency and it is a matter of life. I will organise more events this year to educate people about climate change! When it comes to climate change, people may be uninterested in it right now, but they are not unrelated to it.

 

7. How can people get involved to support you?

Wanaka: People can get involved by joining the NEP group on FB, and please participate in any event. Also, if people want to organise an event, petition etc of your own, I am happy to help. We need more people, adults and children, demanding change! 

 The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can still get ahead on. I am still hopeful and happy to know that companies like Rhythm Japan are conscious of this crisis and trying to do something. Let’s keep working together. Think globally, act locally! 

 

NEP Annual Surf & Beach Cleaning/Image source Facebook nisekoecoproject

 

Conclusion

On this International Earth Day, let’s take a realistic and optimistic approach to addressing climate change starting at the community level. As we enjoy the economic success of the Niseko region and welcome happy travellers and spenders back to our area, we need to consider incorporating environmentally friendly facilities into our development process, assess the impact our tourism, retail, and property industries have on the environment and find ways to offset them, and plan for the future we want to leave for our children.

It’s unlikely that companies and governments will take rapid action unless they realise that consumers and voters truly care. Therefore, it’s crucial to recognize the data, spread the word, spend and vote in line with our values, and accept that some conveniences and efficiencies may need to be sacrificed in the short term to ensure long-term sustainability and social well-being for future generations.

At Rhythm Japan, we recognise the importance of acting now. We celebrate sustainable and local brands and are committed to rolling out further efforts which will positively impact our communities.

 



Join the community at NEP today, and be a part of a larger voice committed to real change.

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