Post-2012 One-upmanship: Japan Stands by Its New Target

Friday, 25. September 2009     0 comment(s)
Alexandru Luta
Researcher
International Politics of Natural Resources and the Environment research programme
A week after its inauguration on September 16, the new DPJ administration led by Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio is still keeping the course with respect to its commitment to contribute positively towards the post-2012 regime.

In an address delivered in Tokyo on September 21 by the new Committee on Global Warming, the Prime Minister, flanked by four ministers and his Chief Cabinet Secretary, restated his party’s commitment to the target of reducing GHG emissions by 25% relative to 1990 by the year 2020. This target, he maintained, was conditional on other major emitters committing themselves to comparable targets. In Japanese parlance this constitutes an indirect reference to countries such as the US, China and India.

While the new Cabinet has not yet announced how it plans to achieve this target, it has made it clear that Japan, while aiming mainly for domestic emission cuts, reserves the right to use carbon offsets from abroad. The new administration has also stated that it means to make ample use of carbon sinks.

New Environment Minister Ozawa Sakahito has stated already that he means to make a break with the policies of the previous LDP administration by introducing during the 2010 regular session a bill that would establish a mandatory country-wide ETS by 2011. This scheme might cover as much as 60% of Japan’s total emissions, but further parameters along which it would operate have not been made public at this point. In a similar vein, Minister Ozawa has announced that a “Global Warming Tax” would be discussed during the following two months and might possibly be introduced as early as April 2010.

Naoshima Masayuki, at the helm of the business-sensitive Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, has recently emphasized the need for other major emitters to be placed on a level playing field with Japan. He also indicated that introducing the Japanese mandatory ETS would be decided after “thorough discussions”, suggesting that 2011 were not a date set in stone. Nevertheless, Minister Naoshima has also stated that fulfilling a proactive role would be a “big plus” for Japan and announced his intention to extend by 2011 compulsory feed-in tariffs to all sources of renewable energy. The scope of the law promulgated by the previous LDP administration, taking effect in November 2009, is limited to solar power only.

Attempting to send a strong message to the world, Prime Minister Hatoyama also announced during the Summit on Climate Change hosted at the UN Headquarters in New York on September 22, a new initiative bearing his name. In it, he called for:

(1) substantial new and additional financial flows from developed to developing countries,
(2) international recognition of developing countries future emissions reductions in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner,
(3) transparent and predictable assistance to developing countries, and
(4) a framework for international technology transfers ensuring the protection of intellectual property rights.

During his address the Prime Minister, while acknowledging the “historical milestone” the Kyoto Protocol represented, called for a new framework binding nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Hatoyama stressed that Japan’s greatest potential to contribute to this new framework lay in the areas of technology and finance.

Even though the DPJ is new to power, astute observers point to the dedication and seriousness with which the new administration has embraced the task it has pledged itself to. However, just like with the new White House administration, it remains to be seen whether popularity and enthusiasm can be transformed into concrete results. The Prime Minister had stated while still in Tokyo that the level of financial commitment to his new initiative would be announced at a later date. One hopes that in the next couple of months his Cabinet will find the means to reach the ambitious goals it has set itself.

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