copyright: Fukui Shinbun

Almost one month has passed after Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), was appointed as Prime Minister of Japan in September 16. According to a public opinion poll carried out by Yomiuri Shinbun in September 17, 75 percent of its respondents supported the ‘Hatoyama’ cabinet, the second highest figure after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s cabinet, since Yomiuri started carrying out its popularity surveys in 1978.  Further, surprisingly, the opinion poll showed that 74 percent supported the proposal of DPJ to reduce emissions of Japan by 25 percent by 2020, compared to the 1990 level. Thus, it could be argued that most Japanese expected Yukio Hatoyama to dramatically advance its climate change policy. But has he really changed Japan’s climate change policy that dramatically?

The most dramatic change that Hatoyama has achieved lies in his declaration that Japan would seek to cut its emissions by 25 percent by 2020 as the mid-term target compared to the 1990 level. As the target of the previous Government led by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and New Komeito was 8 percent, this is a great advance for Japanese climate change policy.

Then, in order to materialize the target, on October 7, the cabinet committee on climate change established two work teams; one to estimate the costs to achieve the target; the other to identify concrete measures of the ‘Hatoyama Initiative’ to support developing countries announced at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change (New York) on September 22. Then, the former team, ‘the team concerning the achievement of the mid-term target’, held its first meeting in October 14. At the meeting, it was decided that a specialist group would be established under the team for estimating costs to achieve the mid-term target, and an interim report on cost estimation would be produced in this month and a final report would be produced in December before COP15 in Copenhagen.

These two may be all that New Prime Minister has achieved for climate change policy so far. Then, has he changed Japan’s climate change policy dramatically? It seems that he has dramatically changed it because he has proposed ambitious target. However, the seemingly ambitious ’25 percent’ includes reductions from buying carbon credits, GHG absorption by forests and plants, etc., as well as the domestic reductions. At the first meeting of the team concerning the achievement of the mid-term target, it was suggested as one plan that cost estimation would be carried out for the following three patterns; among the 25 percent reductions, (1) 10 percent will be reduced domestically; (2) 15 percent will be reduced domestically; and (3) all of them will be reduced domestically. If the total amount of domestic reductions is 10 percent or even 15 percent, it must be rather disappointing.

Thus, it should be said that he has not changed Japan’s climate change policy dramatically so far. However, the birth of the Hatoyama cabinet has clearly increased environmental concerns and made industry motivated to become greener. It is highly expected that new Prime Minister, with greener people and industry, will change climate change policy dramatically or concretely propose radical climate change policy before COP15 in December so that he can be considered as one of the greenest leaders of the world again as in the United Nations Summit on Climate Change in New York.

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