Japan’s New Carbon Target – Good News or Bad News?


This just in from the is-this-good-news-or-bad-news file: Japan’s incoming Democratic Party-led government has promised a more aggressive emissions-trimming policy than the outgoing government. However, the plan will hinge on the inclusion of China and India in an international climate change agreement. This could be bad news for the UN Climate Change Conference to take place in Copenhagen in December.

According to a Reuters report, under the new policy, Japan would cut its 1990 greenhouse gas emission levels by 25 percent by 2020 (versus the 8 percent goal set by the outgoing government and the 10 to 14 percent goal set by most industrialized nations.) To reduce emissions, the Democratic Party will create a domestic cap-and-trade system, introduce a “feed-in” tariff for renewable energy, and possibly introduce a tax on carbon. The plan also includes an important caveat: Japan will not reach this goal alone. “The premise is an agreement that includes other countries such as China and India,” current Democratic Party secretary-general Katsuya Okada reportedly said.

Japan’s adherence to an ambitious emissions target is important for several reasons. Japan is the world’s fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter, and its 2.3 percent rise in emissions in 2008 put the country at 16 percent over its Kyoto Protocol target. Moreover, Japan’s adoption of a touch climate policy will allow it to play a bigger role in the U.N. Convention, which will replace the existing Kyoto Protocol.

In addition to the difficulty of crafting a climate policy the global community can stomach, Japan has faced challenges by its domestic industries, many of which believe the 25 percent target is too ambitious. Nonetheless, analysts doubt the new government will back down from the 25 percent target, since the policy was a main feature of the Party’s campaign platform.

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.

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