Japan’s new prime minister promises to slash CO2 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 — with domestic emissions trading, clean energy subsidies

Japan's prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama

Japan’s new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has promised to make ambitious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, months before world leaders meet for crucial climate change talks.

Hatoyama, who will take office next week, said Japan would seek to reduce CO2 emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, but said the target would be contingent on a deal involving all major emitters in Copenhagen in December.

“We can’t stop climate change just by setting our own emissions target,” he said at a forum in Tokyo. “Our nation will call on major countries around the world to set aggressive goals.”

The announcement today by Japan’s prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama (pictured above) is not a big surprise (see “Japanese opposition easily wins elections “” running on a much stronger climate target“).  But it is nice to see politicians keep their promise — or try to.  The business lobby opposes the target.

Today’s Guardian story notes:

The commitment places Japan firmly among countries committed to aggressive CO2 emissions cuts, despite mounting opposition from business and industry groups, which claim the measures will put jobs at risk.

“We have concerns about its feasibility in view of the impact on economic activities and employment, as well as the enormousness of the public burden,” said Satoshi Aoki, the chairman of the Japan automobile manufacturers’ association.

Harufumi Mochizuki, the outgoing vice minister of trade and industry, said Hatoyama had chosen a “very tough road ahead for the Japanese people and economy”.

Hatoyama said his plan would create jobs in sectors such as renewables and manufacturing amid an expected rise in demand for solar energy, home renovations and energy-efficient cars and consumer electronics.

“There are cautious people who worry that it will hurt the economy and livelihoods, but I think it will change things for the better,” he said.

To help achieve the reduction, Japan will create a domestic emissions trading market and introduce a “feed-in” tariff – financial rewards for industries that expand their use of renewable energy sources.

The Copenhagen talks will be dominated by attempts to persuade China, India and other big emerging economies to sign up to emissions targets.

I’m not certain I’d put it that way.  China, India and the other big emerging economies are not going to sign up to hard emissions targets, but if the rich countries make real commitments — and the U.S. Senate can pass something similar to the Waxman-Markey climate and clean energy bill — then I think China will take on binding commitments that take them sharply off the business as usual emissions path (see “ ‘China will sign’ global treaty if U.S. passes climate bill, E.U. leader says“).  And other key countries are also willing to embrace targets (see “South Korea, a ‘developing’ country, embraces 2020 emissions cap, with important implications for a global deal in Copenhagen“).

The target brings Japan, the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, alongside the EU, which is committed to a 20% cut by 2020 from 1990 levels and 30% if other nations agree to match the target. But it is still at the lower end of the 25-40% cuts recommended by the UN climate change panel.

Hatoyama will have to reconcile his bold initiative with election pledges to eliminate road tolls and petrol surcharges.

As host of the Kyoto summit in 1997, Japan is keen to reposition itself at the forefront of the battle against climate change. Its emissions rose 2.3% in the year to March 2008, putting its 16% above its 2012 Kyoto target.

The target is certainly an impressive one, and the DPJ deserves kudos.

If Japan can do a 25% cut, surely the United States can do a measly 4%.

9 Responses to Japan’s new prime minister promises to slash CO2 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 — with domestic emissions trading, clean energy subsidies

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    I haven’t followed Japanese politics recently, so I can’t comment on the recent results, nor do I know anything about the track record of the new folks or the degree of resolve they have. I DO love Japan, though, and I’ve even hiked to the top of Mr. Fuji.

    But the point I’d like to make — if anyone from Japan is reading — is that the new government should call and push and prod us (in the US) to take REAL and EFFECTIVE action. Indeed, it would be a shame and a disaster if we (the US) don’t adopt serious goals and measures to address global warming.

    Japan should not be shy about the matter. Indeed, I think it would be great if Japan ran an editorial and public service campaign HERE, in the US, to inform us of what Japan is doing and to let us know that the people of Japan would ask the people of the US to help address the climate problem.

    Unfortunately, our media won’t do sufficient justice to Japan’s views in the news itself, and won’t cover them much. But, it has been very well proven that our media are quite happy to accept advertisements, paid statements, and so forth . . . anything that pays. Right now, here in the US, two of the largest advertisers on climate/energy issues are ExxonMobil and Big Coal. I think Japan — including the people of Japan and the Japanese auto industry, clean energy industry, environmental causes, and etc. — could do a great service by helping to “show the way” and encouraging the people of the US to get on board.

    And, it has been said recently that our government needs people to “make me do it”. I think the people of the US — and other countries that can genuinely do so — should help “make us do it” when it comes to facing and addressing the climate and energy problems. Our most sensible government leaders need as much help as they can get.

    I, for one, would ask you (Japan) to help “make us do it”, in a positive sense of course.

    Hiking to the top of Mt. Fuji, and watching the sunrise there, was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Let’s all try to “see the light” and address the climate problem, together!

    Be Well,


  2. Dan K. says:

    Here’s a way that could be achieved, at least here in the U.S. (sans the hydrogen)



    [JR: How could liquid hydrogen be more efficient a way of transporting energy than electric power lines? Plus you don’t have to convert the electricity to hydrogen just so you can convert it back to electricity in a fuel cell? Nobody in their right mind would use CSP to make hydrogen. The only microscopic justification for hydrogen is as an energy storage medium for intermittent power. But heat is already incredibly easy to store, far cheaper and with an infinitely higher round-trip efficiency. I’m just saying….]

  3. anonymous says:

    “China, India and the other big emerging economies are not going to sign up to hard emissions targets”

    It depends on how the targets are assigned. If it’s based on emissions per capita, China and India will be sitting pretty while the industrialized world will have to make drastic changes. I don’t see why China and India would object to that.

  4. Phillip Huggan says:

    “I DO love Japan, though, and I’ve even hiked to the top of Mr. Fuji.”

    I wouldn’t antagonize a Sumo Wrestler. Lucky is a polite society.

  5. paulm says:

    Nice green backdrop!

  6. apeescape says:

    My opinion is that Hatoyama himself (an ex-engineering prof and Stanford grad) has very favorable views on the environment. If you read some of his pieces on his philosophy (see above link), he constantly mentions “coexistence” and “fraternity” with dissenting individuals and the environment. He also has an aversion to economic growth as Japan’s primary national goal. Hatoyama’s views are eccentric within the party, so I’m not sure how high the probability of achieving these goals are, but in terms of the environment, Japan has no better alternatives at the leadership level.

    Here’s a recent article about his views (the longer version of his NYT article).

  7. David B. Benson says:

    William Hoagaland (w. Hoagland & Associates, Boulder CO) wrote in an article appearing in the Scientific American Special Subscriber Edition “Energy’s Future: breaking the boundaries” that “over distances of more than 1,000 kilometers, it costs less to transport hydrogen than to transmit electricity.”

    I was rather surprised when I read that. By the way, the article was obviously written (and not updated) before 1996 CE.

  8. passingby says:

    make sure they mean as they said!
    the same party also got another vote boosting type of talk like “toll-free expressway”
    which the Japanese research from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism showed that
    it will increase number of people using car approx 33% and reduce number of people using public transportation like train apporx 10.6% for the on people traveling a distance of 200 kilometers or more.

    that mean it will 33% increase Carbon dioxide emissions!!!

    the dream is cool, isn’t it?

  9. passingby says:

    sorry! some fix for the wrong info!

    Car users will jump “57.5%” not 33%

    that make co2 emissions increase to 33%.