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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Scientists laud DPJ emissions vow

Ambitious goal of a 25% reduction by 2020 faces stiff opposition from big business


Staff writer

OSAKA — The Democratic Party of Japan's promise to pursue a 25 percent cut in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020 compared with 1990 levels is what scientific experts recommend.

The goal will be welcomed by the European Union, which has announced cuts of at least 20 percent by 2020 based on 1990 levels, and by the United Nations, developing countries and environmental nongovernmental organizations as a sign Japan will take a leading role at the December U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen if the DPJ wins the Aug. 30 election.

But opposition to the target remains strong, especially among Japan's largest business organizations whose members rank among the country's top polluters.

They warn of huge costs to businesses and individuals that will be incurred in meeting the DPJ target by switching to low carbon energy sources, which energy providers say are more expensive and will provide less energy security than traditional fossil fuels.

As of Tuesday, neither the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) nor the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, which lobbied even against Prime Minister Taro Aso's pledge in June of a 15 percent reduction target based on 2005 levels, have officially commented on the DPJ's platform.

A Nippon Keidanren spokesman said there was no doubt the DPJ promise on greenhouse gas emissions is severe.

Earlier this month, Keidanren called on all political parties to adopt environmental policies that create a balance between the environment, the economy and a guarantee of safe and stable energy.

The DPJ's target of a 25 percent reduction by 2020, based on 1990 levels, is in line with the recommendation a U.N.-appointed panel of scientific experts on climate change made in 2007.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said developed nations reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by between 25 percent and 40 percent by 2020 is a key component in a scenario that offers the best chance for ensuring that the global average temperature does not rise to the point of irreversible climate change.

Just as important for reaching a new climate deal in Copenhagen to replace the Kyoto Protocol is the political message developed countries send to developing states, including China, which is now the world's biggest polluter.

Aso's June announcement was hit by U.N. officials and attacked as politically weak and unlikely to spur developing nations into bold commitments.

Japanese environmental activists are cautiously optimistic about the DPJ's more ambitious stance. But they note that should the party win, there will be pressure from all sides to either keep, or disregard, its promise as Copenhagen nears.

"A DPJ-led government probably won't have a basic climate change policy ready until October, and there will be pressure from the domestic business lobby to adopt less-stringent targets. But if (DPJ President) Yukio Hatoyama becomes prime minister, one of the first things he'll do is attend international meetings in late September, where the United Nations and world leaders will press Japan to show strong leadership on climate change," said Yurika Ayukawa of Office Ecologist, a Tokyo-based NGO.

Facing concerns about how much it will cost Japan to cut its emissions under the DPJ plan, party officials have stressed that investment in green, energy efficient technologies is key, saying such outlays would create new businesses and job opportunities.

"Japan is the world leader in areas like solar power, and through investments in alternate energy technologies we can move toward a green economy that will provide employment in many new fields and create new business chances," Masayuki Naoshima, the DPJ's shadow chief Cabinet secretary, told Kansai business leaders in Osaka last Thursday.



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