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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Kyoto pact plan avoids carbon tax; buying of emissions credits expected

Staff writer

The government unveiled a plan Tuesday for fulfilling Japan's obligations to cut greenhouse gas emissions under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol but stopped short of including the contentious carbon tax.

News photo
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi addresses a meeting of the government's global warming task force held at his office.

Although the Environment Ministry had insisted a carbon tax would be indispensable in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the plan only said the country needs to discuss the levy "in a serious and comprehensive manner."

The plan was watered down after the ministry's carbon tax proposal drew flak from the industrial sector, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Economy, Trade and Industry.

Japan pledged under the Kyoto pact, which took effect in February, to curb its greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent from the 1990 level by 2012. But emissions in fiscal 2002 were 7.6 percent higher than the 1990 level.

At a news conference, Environment Minister Yuriko Koike said that although the introduction of the carbon tax was not mentioned in the plan, she said she still believes the tax is an effective way to fight global warming.

"We want to continue our discussions and aim to introduce the levy in fiscal 2006," she said.

The ministry proposed in November introducing a carbon tax that would impose 2,400 yen per ton of fossil fuels. But a METI panel on global warming said earlier this month that such a tax might undermine the international competitiveness of Japanese companies and that the government should carefully consider this approach.

The plan unveiled Tuesday was based on separate reports compiled earlier by several government panels, including those of the two ministries.

It said the government would revise the law on global warming to oblige factories and offices that emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases to report on their emissions. Based on the reports, the government will disclose emissions data to the public and encourage businesses to make more efforts to curb emissions.

The plan also said the government would oblige transportation and shipping companies to report on the amount of energy they consume and on their energy-saving plans. Construction firms would also be required to report energy-saving measures when building large structures, including condominium complexes.

Although the government aims to achieve its reduction target through these steps, experts say they are not enough to meet the target and thus Japan will have to buy emissions reduction credits from other countries.

Yoichi Kaya, director general of Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth, said the government should have adopted mandatory insulation standards for buildings to reduce the use of air conditioners and heaters, which run on fossil fuels.

He said insufficient insulation in structures, including houses, has contributed to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan also says the government expects the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), the nation's most powerful business lobby, to carry out its voluntarily set emissions cuts.

But Tetsunari Iida, chief of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, said reduction targets for businesses must be mandatory.

If businesses fail to meet their goals, the government would have to compensate for the shortfall by purchasing emissions credits from other countries, using taxpayer money, Iida said.

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