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Cold Feet: Japan To Water Down Climate Policy

The latest draft law compiled by the government shows some of its measures for the fight against global warming could be watered down significantly, compared with an initial draft mapped out earlier by the Environment Ministry.

While the government is moving ahead with a debate on the draft to earn Cabinet approval March 5, the planned legislation is leaning heavily toward meeting demand from business circles in regulations on emissions trade and renewable energy promotion.

An environmental group official with knowledge of the draft criticized it as “giving the nod to doing nothing.” A number of clauses in the bill also differ from what the ruling Democratic Party of Japan pledged in its campaign manifesto for last year’s general election.

The ministry’s initial draft had aimed at setting an upper limit to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions from business corporations in line with the DPJ pledges.

But the latest version envisions creating a system of setting an upper limit per production, which means that overall emissions would rise if production increases.

As for a plan to introduce a system requiring utility firms to buy all the electricity generated with renewable energy at fixed prices, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry calls for using vaguer language that could lead to a fallback in countermeasures.

The latest version of the draft, however, maintains the goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, as revealed by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama last fall.

No to gas cut target

Nine industry groups said Friday they are opposed to specifying the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions cut target in an antiglobal warming bill that the government plans to present to the current Diet session.

The Japan Iron and Steel Federation, the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan and other groups said in a statement that spelling out the target to cut emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 would not lead to a “real solution” to the problem unless international fairness is secured.

The groups also expressed opposition to the inclusion in the government bill of a domestic greenhouse gas emissions trading system and taxation to fight global warming.

They said that such systems would have a “heavy impact on people’s lives and industrial activities,” but that there has not been any examination of their possible effects or their potential burdens on people.

The industry groups said that if the government submitted the bill to the Diet without providing sufficient explanations and information to people, the move could not be described as a “democratic process.”

They also cited the idea of promoting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through transferring energy-saving technologies to other countries.

The Japan Times, 28 February 2010