The recent elections for the lower house of Japan’s Diet herald the end of the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) domination of Japanese politics. The winner, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), aims to thoroughly reform the way the country is governed.
The strategic goals of the DPJ’s reform agenda are to shift the locus of policy-drafting away from civil servants to the legislature, and to bring the latter firmly under the control of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet.
In order to be able to work towards its strategic goal, the DPJ needs tactical victories to maintain its popularity with the electorate. The climate negotiations’ high profile makes domestic climate policy a natural area for the DPJ to differentiate its political brand from that of the LDP.
Just as with governance reform, the DPJ has time and again asserted its commitment to pro-active climate goals both in pre- and post-electoral speeches, at home and abroad. Therefore it is very likely to continue pouring political capital into this policy area.
The division between major ministries about how to formulate Japanese climate policy presents a willing Cabinet with structural advantages to assert its leadership successfully. The wider reforms currently being implemented further strengthen the new government’s position.
There are some factors that might limit the ability of Japan’s new leadership to fight climate change. These include how their relationship with domestic media outlets shapes their approval ratings, how the positions of other stakeholders develop, how other electoral promises conflict with the new climate platform, and how the climate negotiations progress on the international level.