Japan Eyes Households To Help Cut CO2 Emissions 25 Pct
Author: Risa Maeda and Chisa Fujioka
Smoke from a chimney is silhouetted against the setting sun at an industrial complex in Kawasaki, near Tokyo December 22, 2009.
Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon
Japan will step up its call this week to use greener household technologies to cut CO2 output to shift away from sharp emission caps or carbon taxes on industry proposed in parliament that labor worries could cost jobs.
Japan's Democratic Party-led government has pledged to cut greenhouse gases 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, more than triple the amount proposed by the previous government.
A recent environment ministry however report suggests that households cutting fossil energy use and expanding renewable and nuclear power instead of caps on industry are the better ways to achieve the goal than targeting industry.
But some analysts have dismissed the report, saying a structural change in combating emissions without breakthroughs in costly "green" technology that industry would need to meet caps would hurt the economy.
One analyst said that without emission caps or buying carbon credits to offset pollution, the new target is unrealistic.
"Japan will sooner or later lower itself down from the minus 25 percent hurdle," said Yasuhiko Tabaru, a senior consultant at the Mizuho Information and Research Institute, referring to the portion to be cut domestically.
"Former Prime Minister Taro Aso's government spent reasonable time for research before he came up with the minus 8 percent target, and I still think that that target is not far from the very limit Japan can do on its own efforts."
But with the government mum on carbon credit purchases for now, it will kick off a series of public meetings from Thursday aimed at sharing a sense of urgency to meet the 2020 target by explaining Japan's long-term energy and environment policy.
A key reason for the focus on households, analysts say, is to appeal to public concern about climate change while keeping labor support ahead of crucial mid-year upper house polls.
JAPAN A LOW EMITTER
Voluntary emission cut efforts since the 1970s have helped Japan pump out only half as much CO2 as the EU or the United States per unit of economic output.
Manufacturers, which account for the bulk of emissions in the world's fifth-biggest emitter, have also led efforts to put Japan on track to achieve its binding emissions reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol for the 2008-2012 period.
But a climate bill before parliament that has suggested a carbon tax on industry, being debated this week, may cost political support for the government as it attempts an ambitious fiscal reform program.
The environment ministry report instead emphasizes meeting the climate pledge by more mundane efforts like promoting smart meters, double glazing windows, using low-carbon central heating, and energy-saving bulbs as well as solar panels and hybrid and electric cars.
The appeal of such an approach, the environment ministry says, is to generate demand of as much as 32 trillion yen ($347 billion) by households and small businesses in the next decade.
Such new "green" demand is a key hope for Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who came to power in September after more than 50 years of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party, to prop up Japan's economy, which has been trapped in deflation for more than a decade.
Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa has said the priority is on funding efforts by households and regional communities to cut CO2, areas which Japan has neglected in the past compared to other environmentally-conscious countries.
But Ozawa has not elaborated how Japan will encourage such efforts without increasing its already heavy fiscal debt.
(Editing by Ed Lane)