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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Japan Promises Big Greenhouse Gas Cuts

Japan's Prime Minister-elect has announced that by 2020, his nation will slash greenhouse gas pollution by 25% of 1990 levels.

It's a significantly higher target than the one set by outgoing Prime Minister Taro Aso, whose administration had said it would try to cut emissions by around 8% by 2020. , The nation has not yet met its targeted cuts under the current international climate agreement, the Kyoto Protocol.

Prime Minister-elect Yukio Hatoyama could be positioning the world's fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter as an important force in December's international climate treaty talks. Japan has the world's second-largest economy.

He may also be underlining the enormity of the political transition underway in Japan after his Democratic Party's recent landslide victory.

The losing Liberal Democratic Party, a conservative party, has run Japan for nearly all of the past half-century. Hatoyama, meanwhile, is a "bushy-haired management professor turned stern-faced prophet of change, a critic of American-led globalization who admires John F. Kennedy, a scion of privilege whose nickname is Space Alien, a political blueblood who overturned his country’s postwar political order," according to The New York Times.

Announcing the new policy Monday at a climate change symposium in Tokyo, Mr. Hatoyama said that Japan's new commitment would depend upon reaching an agreement with other leading carbon polluters. The position statement of his Democratic Party of Japan on climate mentions the involvement of India and China in particular.

"We can't stop climate change just with our country setting an emissions target," Hatoyama said, as reported in Deutsche Welle. "We will also aim to create a fair and effective international framework by all major countries in the world."

Japanese industrial leaders are already edgy about the sharp greenhouse gas cuts, saying in part that as they already run some of the cleaners, most-energy-efficient factories in the world, there's little left to pare away. "It goes without saying such a target would be difficult to reach," Honda Motor Co. President Takanobu Ito told The Wall Street Journal. "He said Honda would have to undertake extra projects to meet the requirements, despite its recent focus on more environmentally friendly electric-gasoline hybrid vehicles."

Industrial leaders say the government would do better to target greater efficiencies in air-conditioning and driving in the consumer and transportation sectors.

Prime Minister-elect Hatoyama is set to take office on 16 September. There has been no reaction so far to his climate policy announcement from the world's leading greenhouse gas polluter among the industrialized nations, the United States.

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