Japan’s lacklustre 2020 target

Bridge girders

People are right to say that Japan’s new commitment to cut emissions to 15% below 2005 levels by 2020 is inadequate. It is not in keeping with the ultimate goal of preventing dangerous anthropogenic climate change, largely because it isn’t compatible with a stabilization pathway and the need for per-capita emissions to contract everywhere and converge between developed and developing states. To avoid dangerous climate change, we probably need to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gasses below 450ppm (and possibly lower still). Doing that fairly will require deep cuts from developed states by 2020 – at least in the region of 25-40%.

Like Canada, Japan is failing to meet its domestic commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. Rather than being 6% below 1990 levels, it is 9% above. Canada is doing even worse, with emissions about 30% above where they were in 1990. This shows that even targets built into past international agreements weren’t taken seriously enough to be met. At Copenhagen and beyond, both developed and developing states will need to do better. Hopefully, an agreement will come together with the necessary key elements: a commitment from developing states to emit less than they would under a business-as-usual scenario, serious hard caps for all major developed states, measures to protect forests, financing and technology for global mitigation efforts, etc.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

6 thoughts on “Japan’s lacklustre 2020 target”

  1. Is Japan set to make up its Kyoto shortfall through the purchase of international credits?

  2. The Japanese mid-term target
    Posted by takashisagara on June 11, 2009 at 16:13
    Countries, Japan, Politics

    On 10 June, Taro Aso, Prime Minister of Japan, pledged that Japan would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent below the 2005 levels by 2020 (8 percent below the 1990 levels). He expected that, achieving this mid-term target would lead to greenhouse gas emissions reductions approximately by 25 percent by 2030 and then by 70 percent by 2050.

    Japan had six plans for the mid-term target, ranging from 4 percent reductions below the 2005 levels to 30 percent reductions. The mid-term target came from one of the six plans, 14 percent reductions below the 2005 levels. This plan has been reinforced by another one percent because the Komei party, comprising the ruling coalition with the liberal democratic party, and the Ministry of the Environment, strongly demanded a more ambitious target.

    One of the main reasons for this choice is that the Japanese people favour the 14 percent reductions plan. On 24 May 2009, Cabinet Secretariat showed the results of the ‘public opinion poll concerning the mid-term target for global warming’. According to the results, 45.4 percent of the respondents were for the 14 percent reductions plan: 15.3 percent for the 4 percent reductions plan; 13.5 percent for the 21 percent reductions plan; and 4.9 percent for the 30 percent reductions plan. Although the respondents were shown how much each household had to pay to reduce greenhouse gases by 14 percent (i.e. 80,000 yen in a year), most of the respondents chose this target. Aso said in his mail magazine on 11 June that he deeply respected the good sense of his people. If the Japanese people favoured a less ambitious target, he could not have made this decision despite strong industrial oppositions. Indeed, generally, the Japanese industry very strongly demanded that Japan had to choose a 4 percent reductions plan. In addition, though the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry demanded a target that would not severely damage the Japanese economy, it compromised to accept the 14 percent reductions plan because it said that 14 percent reductions would be possible with the introduction of most updated technologies.This may be another important reason that Aso chose this target.

  3. June 12, 2009, 8:19 am
    Japan’s CO2 Goal: Not So Shabby After All?
    By James Kanter

    An offer by Prime Minister Taro Aso of Japan this week to cut emissions by 15 percent compared with 2005 levels by the end of the next decade prompted an immediate outpouring of dismay from United Nations climate officials, European Union policy makers and environmentalists.

    On its face, the Japanese offer did appear to fall far short of what the United States and the E.U. are offering ahead of negotiations in December to reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

    But according to Nigel Purvis, a former senior U.S. climate negotiator and the president of Climate Advisers, a consulting firm, “by some important measures, Japan’s target is more ambitious than that contemplated by either the United States or the European Union.”

  4. Japan revises its climate targets

    The world’s fifth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter has announced willingness to revise its climate targets, taking into account technical and financial assistance to developing countries.

    Rie Jerichow 25/06/2009 14:30

    A few weeks ago, Japan unveiled its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by only 15 percent by 2020 – not below 1990 levels, but below 2005 levels. The plan was immediately slammed by environmentalists.

    Compared to the baseline year of the Kyoto Protocol, 1990, the Japanese commitment corresponds to an eight percent reduction by 2020. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan has committed itself to cut emissions by six percent below 1990 levels. Consequently, the new target is just two percent more than the country had already committed to, and much less than the 20 percent reduction that the EU has promised for 2020.

    However, the targets referred to only dealt with domestic actions, and UN Climate Chief Yvo de Boer expressed hope that the Japanese target could be revised up for instance by helping poor countries.

    According to Reuters, Minister of the Environment Tetsuo Saito said yesterday that the country is now ready to give technical and financial support to help developing nations cut their greenhouse gas emissions. A move that would revise up Japan’s recently announced emissions cut target.

  5. Yukio Hatoyama’s golden carrot

    Well okay, it’s happened a bit earlier than forecast in these quarters, but Japan’s incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has announced what could prove a significant move in climate circles, pledging to cut his country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from 1990 levels by 2020.

    This goes way beyond the 8% set by Taro Aso’s outgoing Liberal Democratic Party government.

    It’s already being welcomed in campaigning circles. Greenpeace described it as “the first sign of climate leadership we have seen out of any developed country for quite some time,” while WWF said it would “be a big force in moving one step forward the stalled talks between developed and developing countries”.

    Japan vows big climate change cut

    Japan’s next leader has promised a big cut in greenhouse gas emissions, saying he will aim for a 25% reduction by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.

    Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama is due to take over as prime minister on 16 September, after a resounding election victory in August.

    His predecessor, Taro Aso, had pledged cuts of only 8%.

    Mr Hatoyama said the plan was dependent on other nations agreeing targets at December’s climate talks in Copenhagen.

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