Japan Institute for National Fundamentals
http://jinf.jp/

Policy Proposals

2009.10.13 (Tue)

Policy Proposals to New Japanese Government #1 (Environment Policy)

September 18, 2009

 

[Policy Proposals]
1. Withdraw the medium-term target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from 1990 level by 2020.

2. Do not make any easy international commitment that has not gained the endorsement of the people.

3. Offer a medium-term target featuring a better balance between policies.

4. Specify a resources/energy strategy including the use of nuclear power.

 

 

1. Withdraw the medium-term target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from 1990 level by 2020.

      Excessive environmental conservation measures are feared to impose a huge burden on the industrial circle and the people. These measures could force Japan to impose a far greater burden on itself than under the Kyoto Protocol.

(1) The medium-term GHG emission reduction target has failed to specify reasonable reduction measures and costs to secure the attainment of the target. It also has failed to make clear the burden that the industrial circle and the people would shoulder.

(2) How would the government, which has unilaterally offered such a lofty goal, take the responsibility for spending massive taxpayer money for purchasing emission credits or rights when the target turns out difficult to attain? The administration should specify the target’s net GHG emission reduction portion excluding emission credit or right purchases.

(3) Standard years for reducing GHG emissions have yet to be unified. The European Union has offered a 13% reduction from the standard year of 2005. The United States has come up with a 14% cut from the same year. Earlier, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government of former prime minister Taro Aso had proposed a 15% cut from 2005. In contrast, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has offered a 25% reduction from 1990. Such a target could become a major stumbling block discouraging the United States from taking part in a post-Kyoto Protocol framework.

How does the new government view Japan’s GHG emission reduction obligation (to reduce emissions by 6% from 1990 level) in the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period? The obligation is viewed as difficult for Japan to fulfill. Japan could be forced to spend massive amounts of taxpayer money on emission credit purchases and other measures to attain the goal. How will the new government raise funds for such purchases?

 

2. Do not make any easy international commitment that has not gained the endorsement of the people.

(1) It is a misuse of power for the administration to make an international commitment based on an incomplete, unspecific campaign manifesto without giving sufficient explanations to the people or having sufficient discussions in the absence of social consent. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama should not have made any easy international commitment at the United Nations and the like.

(2) In his speech at the September 7 Asahi World Environment Forum 2009, Hatoyama described the medium-term target as based on emission reductions that are scientifically required to stop global warming. The prime minister should explain the relevant scientific data.

      Hatoyama also said: “We will also pursue all major countries’ building of a fair, effective international framework. An agreement on an ambitious target among all major countries will be a precondition for Japan’s commitment to the international community.” But this approach could result in a repetition of the Kyoto Protocol experience. Domestic social consensus on any international commitment is a prerequisite for making such a commitment.
      Hatoyama also said, “We believe that industrial countries should provide financial and technical support to developing countries that ambitiously try to reduce GHG emissions.” But we should require major GHG-emitting countries to make due payments for such support. Technical and financial grants to developing countries may delay their technological innovation to the disadvantage of global warming prevention and amount to unreasonable national wealth losses that the people cannot ignore.

 

3. Offer a medium-term target featuring a better balance between policies.

(1) Among DPJ initiatives, the elimination of expressway tolls and the abolition of provisional auto-related tax portions are expected to contribute to expanding automobile use and carbon dioxide emissions, contradicting the GHG emission reduction plan. These initiatives may also affect operators and users of public transportation services and hurt regional economies by leading to a decline in regional transportation networks. How will the administration address these adverse effects?

(2) If expressway tolls were to be eliminated, the government would have to specify how it would deal with 40 trillion yen in debt left by now-defunct public road corporations and their privatization.

(3) The increase of national burden accompanying the government’s environment policy would inevitably lead to a decline in Japan’s international competitiveness and to its industrial hollowing-out. Given that new financial resources will be required for the introduction of a fixed-price purchase system for renewable energy with mandatory purchase of all electricity generated and that the early introduction of an environmental tax will be difficult, further deterioration of fiscal condition would be inevitable. How will the government achieve both economic recovery and sustainable growth under such circumstances?

(4) Citing oil crises in the 1970s, the DPJ has argued that tougher environmental regulations would promote technological innovation and improve the economy. This argument is too idealistic to be persuasive. Compared with the shift from massive production and consumption before the oil crises to energy conservation, any further technological innovation over a short term of some 10 years would be far more difficult in Japan that already features the most widespread energy conservation technologies in the world.

(5) The DPJ depends on data from a certain research institute to argue that the medium-term GHG emission reduction target would be compatible with economic growth. But the DPJ has never specified objective data prepared in a manner for which the party is responsible. Any international commitment without responsible verification amounts to ignoring the people.

 

4. Specify a resources/energy strategy including the use of nuclear power.
       In its campaign manifesto the DJP has vowed to “take steady steps toward the use of nuclear power,” while forming a coalition with the Social Democratic Party that has described itself as the only political party that has made clear a shift away from nuclear energy. It would be unrealistic to attain the medium-term CO2 emission reduction target on the condition of a shift away from nuclear energy. As a responsible ruling party, the DPJ is required to specify its attitude on the future nuclear energy policy.