On 10 June, Taro Aso, Prime Minister of Japan, pledged that Japan would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent below the 2005 levels by 2020 (8 percent below the 1990 levels). He expected that, achieving this mid-term target would lead to greenhouse gas emissions reductions approximately by 25 percent by 2030 and then by 70 percent by 2050.
Japan had six plans for the mid-term target, ranging from 4 percent reductions below the 2005 levels to 30 percent reductions. The mid-term target came from one of the six plans, 14 percent reductions below the 2005 levels. This plan has been reinforced by another one percent because the Komei party, comprising the ruling coalition with the liberal democratic party, and the Ministry of the Environment, strongly demanded a more ambitious target.
One of the main reasons for this choice is that the Japanese people favour the 14 percent reductions plan. On 24 May 2009, Cabinet Secretariat showed the results of the ‘public opinion poll concerning the mid-term target for global warming’. According to the results, 45.4 percent of the respondents were for the 14 percent reductions plan: 15.3 percent for the 4 percent reductions plan; 13.5 percent for the 21 percent reductions plan; and 4.9 percent for the 30 percent reductions plan. Although the respondents were shown how much each household had to pay to reduce greenhouse gases by 14 percent (i.e. 80,000 yen in a year), most of the respondents chose this target. Aso said in his mail magazine on 11 June that he deeply respected the good sense of his people. If the Japanese people favoured a less ambitious target, he could not have made this decision despite strong industrial oppositions. Indeed, generally, the Japanese industry very strongly demanded that Japan had to choose a 4 percent reductions plan. In addition, though the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry demanded a target that would not severely damage the Japanese economy, it compromised to accept the 14 percent reductions plan because it said that 14 percent reductions would be possible with the introduction of most updated technologies.This may be another important reason that Aso chose this target.
Although Japan chose the ambitious target, it is apparently difficult for Japan to achieve it. Though Japan ambitiously vowed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent below the 1990 levels by 2012 under the Kyoto protocol agreement , Japan has been unable to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and it would possibly fail to achieve it, mainly because the Japanese Government has been highly concerned with protecting the industry from suffering costs for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is questionable whether the Government can persuade the industry to reduce dramatically greenhouse gas emissions to achieve the more stringent mid-term target though it has failed to do so to achieve the Kyoto protocol agreement.
Finally, it should be emphasized that the Government must consider how the mid-term target influence the most vulnerable segments of the society including the poor, the handicapped, children and the elderly, which has been almost totally neglected in the discussion of the mid-term target. Because achieving the mid-term target clearly requires a wide range of ‘changes’ in the society, the Government has to be concerned with influences of the target placed onto them. Although the mid-term target has been finally set, there are a number of difficult and complicated issues that Japan has to start to work out for achieving the target.