How Much Will Japan's New Proposal To Reduce Emissions Cost?

Image from Nikkei

As Daniel noted here on Treehugger, Japan's Yukio Hatoyama didn't miss a beat. Just days after being elected, he spoke up on climate change, with an "ambitious" target of 25% reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Cool. Speaking at the Asahi World Environment Forum 2009, Mr Hatoyama said, "We aim to achieve that goal through political will, by mobilizing all policy steps required."

The reactions of course have been mixed: "This is the first sign of climate leadership we have seen out of any developed country for quite some time -- the type of leadership we need to see from President Obama," Martin Kaiser, climate policy director at Greenpeace, said according to Bloomberg. But how much will this actually cost?One estimate shows that emissions goals such as the one put forth by the DPJ would cost each Japanese household about 360,000 yen ($3875) a year, including surcharges on electricity prices, the outgoing Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai has said, without any further explanations about how they arrived at this figure.

The outgoing Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said it contains many problems--both social and economic--that must be addressed: ''I recognize some merit in exerting Japanese leadership, but there are various realistic problems, including whether all major emitting countries will join in efforts to prevent global warming... I wonder if people can tackle the proposal with the resolve that they would hardly be able to use gasoline-powered vehicles,'' he said at a Tokyo news conference, according to Kyodo News.

Keidanren, representing Japan's largest companies, opposes any cut bigger than 6 percent. In May the group said a 4 percent increase from the 1990 level was the "most rational goal" in terms of viability and the financial burden on consumers.

The business federation warned that the target is unrealistic and will place Japan at a competitive disadvantage. You have heard it before: they think the nation's firms will "move overseas in search of less-stringent environmental regulations, and this will ultimately exact a heavy financial toll on both businesses and households."

What a difference an election can make. The people of Japan wants "change" and they are giving Mr Hatoyama the mandate to act on environmental issues.

BBC's Richard Black said: "Now Japan has broken that mould. Mr Hatoyama believes a major cut is feasible, and in a country that is already far more frugal with energy than the US. Tokyo, therefore, has laid down a gauntlet to Washington. We shall see whether Washington responds."

Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard, who will head the big UN meeting in Copenhagen laster this year, welcomed Japan's new commitment, according to Eric Johnston at The Japan Times:

"For a long time, everybody has been waiting for everybody else in the international (climate) negotiations. Now, Japan has taken a big step forward in setting an ambitious target and I hope other countries will follow," she said in a statement.

And "This ambitious commitment by Japan will help to move the negotiations forward," according to Yvo de Boer, the UN's chief climate change official, speaking to Mure Dickie at the Financial Times.

To reduce emissions, Hatoyama will create a domestic emissions trading market with volume caps on emitters. They also want to introduce a feed-in tariff for renewable energy to help expand capacity for clean energy sources. A higher gasoline tax is also being discussed.

As Daniel pointed out:

It's possible that it could be the U.S. that ends up getting Japan to abandon its pledge. The Waxman-Markey bill calls for only 4 percent below 1990 reductions by 2020, and that target could be undermined by the up to 2 billion tons of offsets available to polluters under the proposed cap on emissions. It seems that only decisive and strong political action from President Obama can show the world before Copenhagen that the U.S. is serious about reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

But, would Americans be ready to pay $3875 a year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Or more? Get ready for more debate, and try to keep your head cool.

More Japan Emission Cuts:
Will Japan Go For Deep CO2 Emission Cuts?
Japan: "Extremely Ambitious" Emission Cuts
Japan Steps Up Its Greenhouse Gas Pledge: Will The U.S. Step Up Now Too?

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