On 12 February, the committee on the mid-term goal (Chuki mokuhyo kento iinkai; Chairman: Toshihiko Fukui, former Governor of the Bank of Japan), which has been established under the conference on global warming of the Government (Chikyu ondanka mondai ni kansuru kondankai; Chairman: Hiroshi Okuda, Corporate advisor of Toyota) and has examined the mid-term goal of greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, submitted its interim report to the conference.

The interim report suggested SIX plans concerning the GHG reductions by 2020.

Among six plans, three plans were proposed for the case in which industrialized nations are required to reduce GHG emissions by 25% compared to the year 1990 based on the requirements of the IPCC fourth Assessment Report though it requires them to reduce emissions by 25% to 40%.

  • First Plan:

The costs in reducing GHG emissions should be as equal as those in other industrialized nations.

  • Second Plan:

The costs per GDP should be as equal as those in other industrialized nations.

  • Third Plan:

Japan should reduce GHG emissions by 25% as equally as other industrialized nations.

The rest of the six plans include:

  • Fourth Plan:

Japan should reduce GHG emissions by the extension of current technologies.

  • Fifth Plan:

Japan should spend almost the same amount of money in reducing GHG emissions as those in the EU and the US.

  • Sixth Plan:

Japan should introduce most advanced technologies for the reduction of GHG emissions not by

compulsory measures but by voluntary efforts.

According to the trial calculations of the reduction rates in GHG emissions compared to its levels in 1990 for each plan, GHG emissions of Japan will

(Plan1) decrease by 1% to 12%

(Plan2) decrease by 16% to 17%

(Plan3) decrease by 25%

(Plan4) increase by 6%

(Plan5) increase by 0% to 7% if Japan spends the same amount of money as the EU; increase by –2% to 7% if Japan spends the same amount of money as the US

(Plan6) decrease by 4%

Then, which plan will Japan choose?

Undoubtedly, it will not be acceptable for the rest of the world that Japan will increase its GHG emissions. However, Japan surprisingly has such an option. This reflects a strong frustration of the Japanese industrial world in the current unequal burdens of costs in reducing GHG emissions among industrialized nations.

According to Economic Association of Japan (EAJ: Nihon keidanren), in order to reduce GHG emissions by 25% compared to its levels in 1990, in Japan, where energy-saving is highly advanced, reducing 1 ton of CO2 requires almost 400 dollars though it requires almost 143 dollars for the US and almost 128 dollars for the EU. EAJ argues that it would demand the equality in cost burdens among nations because if the equality is not secured, Japanese people will be forced to suffer excessive burdens in reducing GHG emissions and the international competitiveness will weaken and overseas production transfer will occur.

Along the same line, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has demanded the equality in the cost burdnes among nations and insisted that the mid-term goal should not pose excessive burdens on the Japanese industrial world. For instance, Vice-Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Harufumi Mochizuki emphasized ‘it is a basic principle to make the best selection in consideration of the comparability between the economy and the environment.

Contrarily, the Ministry of the Environment has sought for the mid-term goal that is as strict as possible. Indeed, Minister of the Environment Tetsuo Saito insisted on reducing GHG emissions by 25% to 40% saying ‘although the government has not reached its consensus, the reduction of GHG emissions by 25% to 40% is the only one option that Japan should choose.’

These two conflicting lines exist in the debates on the mid-term goal in the committee too and the committee consequently had to propose SIX plans including both ‘increase’ and ‘decrease’ options. Because the conflicts between these two lines cannot be easily solved, Japan will not announce its mid-term goal soon although the world has been waiting for its early decision. Further, considering the strong frustration in unequal cost burdens and the opposition of the industrial world in setting strict mid-term goal, the final choice of Japan will not be the strictest plan.

However, it cannot be expected that Japan will choose an ‘increase’ plan because the government and even the industrial world understand that such an option will not be acceptable for the rest of the world and Japan will loose power in the international debates on the global climate change.

Thus, the choice Japan will make may be a ‘moderate reduction’ plan, which is not impressive but acceptable for the rest of the world. Surely, if Prime Minister Taro Aso is determined to dramatically reduce GHG emissions of Japan by exercising his strong leadership, it may be still possible for Japan to choose the strictest plan. However, Aso has recently often emphasized ‘the mid-term goal should be internationally acceptable but should be feasible at the same time.’ Clearly, Aso seeks for a ‘moderate reduction’ plan. Although Japan will announce its mid-term goal by June, the reduction rates will be 25% at best and possibly less than 25%.

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