The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won 308 of the 480 seats though the ruling bloc of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and New Komeito got only 140 seats in the Lower House election on Sunday. This is a landslide victory for DPJ, as DPJ had only 115 seats while the ruling bloc had 331 seats before the election. It can be called ‘revolution’ because LDP was out of power for only 11 months (1993-1994) and was always the largest party.
Then, the question is ‘can the new government led by DPJ reduce GHG emissions more than the Government led by LDP/New Komeito for the greener future?’
As climate change issues were not sufficiently discussed during an election campaign period because other topics such as employment and social welfare were main issues, it is difficult to answer the question.
However, as shown in the previous post, as far as climate change issues are concerned, DPJ is more ambitious and environmental groups and environmentalists normally support DPJ. Indeed, DPJ proposes stricter mid-term targets than the Government in its manifesto. Namely, DPJ promises to cut GHG emissions reductions by 30 percent below the 2005 level by 2020 though the government’s target is 15 percent. Before the Government chose this target, the Economic bloc (e.g. the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and Nippon Keidanren) proposed 4% while the Environment bloc (e.g. the Ministry of the Environment and environmental NGOs) suggested 20-30%. Thus, the LDP’s proposal is a compromise but the DPJ’s proposal is clearly the one proposed by the environment bloc.
Although there seems a big difference between them, the difference might not be so big because 15 percent is the total amount of ‘domestic’ reductions of GHG gas emissions while 30 percent is the total amount of reductions achieved by reducing domestic GHG gas emissions as well as buying carbon credits, GHG absorption by forests and plants, and etc. Nonetheless, according to an anonymous highly-ranked official of the Ministry of the Environment, ‘the DPJ’s targets are clearly stricter.’ Katsuya Okada, the Secretary-General of DPJ, emphasizes, ‘by setting ambitious targets, we want to take an initiative in international negotiation on climate change.’ In order to achieve the targets, DPJ has considered introduction of a wide range of measures, such as a domestic emissions trading system and a global warming tax, though Japanese industries have been strongly against these measures.
The DPJ’s proposal has been severely criticized mainly by LDP and industries as infeasible and unrealistic, again as told in the previous post. For instance, Akihiro Sawa, a senior researcher at the 21st century public policy institute, a thinktank established by Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), criticized the proposal because of three reasons. First, according to Sawa, DPJ has not clarified how much the costs to achieve its proposed targets will be. While LDP clarified that the costs will be 76,000 yen per year per household, DPJ has not. Second, he argued that though a domestic emissions trading system and a global warming tax (environmental tax) cannot be introduced at the same time in terms of policy objectives and policy effects, DPJ considers introducing both. Third, he maintained that, although DPJ insists that Japan will be highly evaluated by the world and take an initiative in international negotiation on climate change by setting the mid-term targets as 30%, the world would not evaluate Japan so highly because developing countries such as India and China required industrialized nations to reduce GHG emissions more.
Further, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry pointed out that if Japan is to achieve the mid-term targets of DPJ, it would cost more than 190 trillion yen for ten years, leading to critical economic damages to the Japanese economy, while the Government’s targets would require approximately 62 trillion yen. Moreover, Tetsuo Saito, Minister for the Environment, criticized that though DPJ proposes stricter targets in its manifesto, DPJ inconsistently proposes to make highway charges free, which would lead to increases in CO2 emissions from automobiles.
Thus, it is now unclear whether the new government led by DPJ can reduce GHG emissions more than the Government led by LDP/New Komeito for the greener future. However, one thing that is clear is that DPJ will attempt to reduce GHG emissions more than the Government whether its attempt will be successful or not.