Japan ruling party calls for major green investment in draft plan

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s ruling party will call on the government to promote environmental investment with a major decade-long spending programme for the country, whose Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has made a green society a key policy priority.

FILE PHOTO: Solar panels are seen at a solar power facility as snow covered Mount Fuji is background in Nakai town, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) said in the draft proposal, which was seen by Reuters early on Friday, that the government should create a fund with a size “comparable to global standards” that supports companies investing in green technology, without suggesting a specific figure.

Suga has said that Japan will aim for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and the LDP’s recommendations will serve as a basis for the government’s deliberations on a fresh stimulus package, which Suga has ordered his cabinet to develop.

The proposal, which suggests incentives to promote green investment will be among key pillars of the package along with spending to cushion the immediate blow from COVID-19, will be presented to the government on Monday, an LDP source said.

“By deploying all policy means available, the public and private sectors must work together to achieve zero carbon emission in 2050,” said the draft, which was still subject to change after further deliberations when it was seen by Reuters, before being finalised by the party.

As well as calling for deregulation and tax breaks, the proposal also urges the government to expand or create new state-backed loan and loan guarantee schemes to support firms hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It seems (the new package) will clearly be different from just providing support to cope with the pandemic,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.

“There will be an increasing number of measures with an eye on a post-COVID society,” he said.

The draft also called on the government to provide “strong support” for airlines hit by the pandemic, with measures such as slashing airport fees and fuel tax.

And it urged the extension of a subsidy for travel that has provoked concerns over a resurgence of coronavirus infections.

These hit a record daily high of 570 cases in Tokyo on Friday, topping the previous high of 539, city officials said, after 9,792 tests, another record.

With rising infections clouding the outlook, Japan said on Friday it would extend until February next year a subsidy scheme that compensates companies for retaining jobs while temporarily closing business due to the pandemic.

Ruling party executives have called for an extra budget worth around 20-30 trillion yen ($192-$288 billion), which will fund part of the stimulus package.

($1 = 104.0900 yen)

Reporting by Daniel Leussink and Tetsushi Kajimoto, writing by Leika Kihara; Editing by Chris Gallagher, Lincoln Feast and Alexander Smith