Can Japan Lead? Update About Mr Hatoyama's Emission Targets

Japanese businesses are worried about the ambitious emissions cut target proposed by DPJ. Mr Hatoyama, the next prime minister, said on Monday that he is resolved to achieving a 25 percent cut from Japan's 1990 greenhouse-gas emissions levels by 2020.

One research institute estimates that to achieve the goal, solar-power generation capacity would have to increase to 55 times the current level by installing solar panels in all new houses. It says the sales of conventional cars would have to be banned to raise the percentage of eco-friendly models to 90 percent of all new cars. It also says some highly energy-consuming industries including steel and chemical manufacturers would have to curtail production. The institute estimates these measures would cost each household an additional 3,900 dollars a year.

OK, that is how you would expect Japan Inc. to respond to any radical proposal. Fact is, Mr Hatoyama is getting some very strong support around the world.

"This is the first sign of climate leadership we have seen out of any developed country for quite some time -- the type of leadership we need to see from President Obama," Martin Kaiser, climate policy director at Greenpeace, said according to Bloomberg.

The outgoing Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said it contains many problems--both social and economic--that must be addressed: ''I recognize some merit in exerting Japanese leadership, but there are various realistic problems, including whether all major emitting countries will join in efforts to prevent global warming... I wonder if people can tackle the proposal with the resolve that they would hardly be able to use gasoline-powered vehicles,'' he said at a Tokyo news conference, according to Kyodo News.

What a difference an election can make. The people of Japan wants "change" and they are giving Mr Hatoyama the mandate to act on environmental issues.

BBC's Richard Black said: "Now Japan has broken that mould. Mr Hatoyama believes a major cut is feasible, and in a country that is already far more frugal with energy than the US. Tokyo, therefore, has laid down a gauntlet to Washington. We shall see whether Washington responds."

Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard, who will head the big UN meeting in Copenhagen later this year, welcomed Japan's new commitment, according to Eric Johnston at The Japan Times:

"For a long time, everybody has been waiting for everybody else in the international (climate) negotiations. Now, Japan has taken a big step forward in setting an ambitious target and I hope other countries will follow," she said in a statement.

And, "This ambitious commitment by Japan will help to move the negotiations forward," according to Yvo de Boer, the UN's chief climate change official, speaking to Mure Dickie at the Financial Times.

To reduce emissions, Hatoyama will create a domestic emissions trading market with volume caps on emitters. They also want to introduce a feed-in tariff for renewable energy to help expand capacity for clean energy sources. A higher gasoline tax is also being discussed.

More over at Treehugger (including links to the news sources). Do comment here, or over there if you think this is important.

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