Japan disappoints on future Climate Change / CO2 goals

June 11, 2009 at 12:24 pm Leave a comment

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, photographed...
Image via Wikipedia

One of the striking things about living in Japan is the common held belief that Japan is one of the world leaders in environmental management and clean technology. Indeed at the moment it is almost impossible to walk down any main street without seeing an advertisement touting a major corporation’s green credentials for fighting climate change or an “eco ” product to salve a consumers green conscience.

Prime Minister Aso announces weak CO2 emission targets for 2020.

So it was a great disappointment yesterday when beleagured Prime Minister Aso, announced Japans CO2 commitments ahead of the COP15 conference in Copenhagen in December. It seems that through very strong lobbying by the Japanese industry group Keidanren, the Japanese commitments to CO2 emmissions have been severly diluted and strongly challenges the impression that Japan is still a world environmental leader.  Aso announced that Japan would commit to reductions of 15 % of 2005 levels by 2020, which in reality means that Japan will only reduce emmissions by 8% from 1990 levels, the internationally accepted base level year. Keidanren goes further and claims that to remain economically competitive, Japan must only agree to limit CO2 emmissions 4% above 1990 levels by 2020, effectively 4% below 2005 levels.  Kim Carstensen, leader of the global climate initiative at WWF, said the 8% target represented virtually no advance from the 6% cut that Japan  had promised to achieve by 2012, under the Kyoto Protocol. “Prime Minister Aso’s plan is appalling,” he said.”It would mean that Japan effectively gives dirty industries the freedom to pollute without limits for eight years.”

Japan trying to live on past glories

The logic used( if it can be called that) is that in 1990 Japan was far and away the most envirommentally efficient country in the developed world and as such its base level was higher than other polluting countries such as the US., China and the EU. This idea may have held water in the days after the 70’s oil shock when Japan radically redesigned economic and manufacturing processes to balster its ability to ride out world wide energy and economic shocks. However, in reality Japan has not really been an environmental world leader position since the early 90’s after the country was faced with the awesome task of recovering from their own economic shock after the real estate bubble burst. Considering the current dire economic conditions, industry has once again been in a strong position to push the economic line to the detriment of longer term environmental considerations.

Government claims dubious honour of being inline with leading industrial countries.

Additionally the Japanese government claims that it’s reductions are in line with the US, Australia and the EU and is wary of introducing strict limits if leading polluters such as the US and Russia fail to sign up to strict, binding targets in December. Once again short term economic competitiveness has trumped long term environmental responsibility for one of the worlds leading economies.

WWF Japan yesterday stated that the government move will dramtically set back Japans fight against the effects of Climate Change, fails to take into account Japan’s international responsibilites as both a leading industrial nation and one of the worlds biggest polluters, and will greatly diminish the countries international credibility particularly with developing countries that look to Japan for environmental leadership.

Government and public miles apart on CO2 reductions

Oddly enough the governments line seems to be at great odds with public sentiment regarding CO2 emmissions. In a recent report conducted by environmental NGO’s including WWF, 60% of the Japanese public want the government to introduce legislation to reduce emmissions by at least 25% by 2020. This divergence from the public desire is astonishing for a government facing an election later this year and with breathtakingly low approval ratings. Aso  recently had an approval rating around 11%, one of the world leaders that would have made George Bush feel good about his own popularity. Once again the power of industry lobbies and a very weak electoral system have seen the desires of the electorate suppressed by the power of big business, with potentially devasting effects for the long term survival of the environment and ironically the Japanese economy.

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Entry filed under: climate change, environment. Tags: , , , , , .

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