September 7, 2009 / 4:08 AM / 10 years ago

Japan PM-elect backs 25 percent greenhouse gas cut

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s prime minister-elect said on Monday he will forge ahead with a tough 25 percent cut in emissions by 2020, despite growing opposition from industry which says the target will hurt the world’s No. 2 economy.

Japanese Prime Minister-elect Yukio Hatoyama makes an opening speech at Asahi World Environment Forum 2009 in Tokyo September 7, 2009. Hatoyama said on Monday Japan will aim for a 25 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared with 1990 levels. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

But Yukio Hatoyama added that the target, more ambitious than the outgoing government’s, was premised on a deal on ambitious goals being agreed by major nations.

“We can’t stop climate change just with our country setting an emissions target,” Hatoyama, who will take office on September 16 after a vote by parliament, said in a speech to a symposium on climate change.

“We will also aim to create a fair and effective international framework by all major countries in the world.”

The Democratic Party has said the tough 2020 target from 1990 levels is needed for Japan to play a bigger role in U.N.-backed climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

The talks will try to work out a new agreement on reducing emissions to succeed the current Kyoto Protocol, the first phase of which ends in 2012.

But a government report issued earlier this year showed that pursuing a 25 percent cut could hurt industries ranging from power generation, steel and cement firms to car and chemical makers, threatening jobs.

The outgoing government’s 2020 target, announced in June, is equivalent to a cut of 8 percent below 1990 levels, and was chosen after lengthy consultations with the public and industry.

The Democratic Party’s point person on climate change policies, Katsuya Okada, declined on Friday to say what Japan would do about its targets if an international deal including countries such as China and India were not on board.

“We are trying to reach an agreement, so we are not discussing what to do if there is none,” Okada told Reuters in an interview.”


Japan’s top business group, Keidanren, is expected to lobby against the Democrats’ emissions target. The auto industry lobby has said it is also worried.

But Hatoyama said fighting global warming presented an opportunity, not a threat, for business.

“Tackling climate change aggressively will open a new frontier for the Japanese economy and create jobs in areas such as electric cars and clean energy technology, including solar power,” he said.

The head of business lobby Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives) told the symposium that the new government needed to spell out specific policies to the public.

“We basically welcome (the target), but we want to ask what policies and steps will be taken to achieve this 25 percent target,” Masamitsu Sakurai, also the chairman of office equipment maker Ricoh Co, told the symposium.

Japan is under pressure for tougher climate policies after its emissions rose 2.3 percent to a record in the year to March 2008, putting the country 16 percent above its Kyoto Protocol target.

For a graphic of Japan's CO2 emissions, click

The U.N. climate chief said Hatoyama’s new commitment was “laudable” and would spur change in Japan’s economy.

“With such a target, Japan will take on the leadership role that industrialized countries have agreed to take in climate change abatement,” Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told the symposium.

Industrialized nations are planning average cuts in greenhouse gas emissions of between 10 and 14 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 as part of the new U.N. climate pact, according to a compilation of national data. This is far below the 25-40 percent reduction by 2020 recommended by the U.N. climate panel.

Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard hoped Japan’s target would persuade other countries to follow suit.

“Japan is one of the most energy-efficient countries in the world,” Hedegaard, whose country will host the December U.N. climate talks, said in a statement. “Yet they show that it is possible to take on a new ambitious target for carbon dioxide reduction that makes sense both for climate and economy.”

Hatoyama said Industrialized countries should provide financial and technological support to developing nations working proactively to reduce emissions, adding that his new government would discuss steps soon after taking power.

He also wanted to present his stance on climate policy in more depth at a U.N. climate change meeting among world leaders on September 22, he said.

To reduce emissions, Hatoyama’s party has pledged to create a domestic emissions trading market with compulsory volume caps on emitters and introduce a “feed-in” tariff, or financial reward, for renewable energy to help expand capacity for clean energy sources.

It is also considering a new carbon tax, but other campaign pledges such as a plan to eliminate highway tolls and to end a decades-old surcharge on gasoline have drawn concern from green groups.

Editing by David Fogarty

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