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Monday, May 21, 2012
Planning a new environment policy
The Noda Cabinet has adopted a new environment basic plan, the fourth since the first plan was adopted in 1994. It incorporates the experience of the Fukushima nuclear crisis and says that the idea of safety should serve as the basis of the endeavor to achieve the main goals of the plan.
This is a commendable approach. Yet, the government is far from setting, say, new safety standards for nuclear power plants based on a thorough study of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It should make serious efforts to promote safety in every sphere of society as well as energy-saving efforts and the development of renewable energy sources.
The Fukushima nuclear catastrophe has made it clear that Japan has no alternative but to push energy savings and green energy to reduce its reliance on nuclear energy and to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.
The new plan calls for the realization of a sustainable society through efforts to build a low-carbon and recycling society, and to promote harmony between people and nature on the foundation of ensuring safety. Harmonization between people and nature is included from the viewpoint of protecting biodiversity. When looked at closely, though, the plan contains various problems.
The plan says that Japan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. This is an ambitious goal, and one wonders whether the government is ready to seriously tackle this task. The plan fails to explain how it will deal with the government's present goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels. The government should immediately work out a middle- and long-term "road map" incorporating specific steps to achieve large reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Without such a road map, efforts to increase the use of renewable energy sources will not gain momentum.
The plan calls for strengthening measures to recycle and utilize useful resources such as rare metals in electronic appliances. But attention should be paid to the basic issue — drastically changing our current mass-production, mass-waste society.
In the wake of the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, and the Fukushima nuclear fiasco, the government must push environment-friendly policies in earnest. As one such step, it must incorporate the new environment plan's ideas in its new energy policy. It also must help promote new technologies and create new values to expand environment-related economic activities — one of the priority fields mentioned by the plan.