Japan’s next prime minister Yukio Hatoyama delighted environmental activists but worried business leaders on Monday by vowing to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.
“We welcome new prime minister Hatoyama’s courage,” said World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Japan office chief Takamasa Higuchi in a statement, praising Hatoyama who is set to take office on September 16.
The new target is far more ambitious than the eight-percent reduction advocated by the outgoing conservative government of Prime Minister Taro Aso, which lost parliamentary elections on August 30.
“It is hard to believe,” Nippon Oil Corp. chairman Fumiaki Watari said of Hatoyama’s plan.
“I want to ascertain his intention,” he told reporters while visiting Beijing with a delegation of Japanese business leaders, the Jiji Press news agency reported.
“It is nothing but preposterous,” Kobe Steel advisor Koushi Mizukoshi said, according to the news agency. “It will undoubtedly run counter to national interests. It will become impossible to conduct manufacturing activities at home.”
Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told Kyodo News that the new target “will be an encouragement for other countries to show a greater level of ambition.”
The WWF’s Higuchi said Japan until now “lacked an ambitious attitude because it was largely influenced by an industrial sector that is backward-looking in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Greenpeace also called the new target “a major step forward.”
“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 (Barack) Obama,” said Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace International.
Kaiser also said the target still fell short of a 40 percent cut by 2020 required from industrialised countries as a group and warned that it needed to be a domestic target, rather than achieved through international offsets.
Outgoing premier Aso’s business-friendly government was criticised for bowing to pressure from Japanese manufacturers who have pushed for a new reduction target of no more than six percent.
The head of the WWF Global Climate Initiative, Kim Carstensen, said Japan’s new higher goal “will be a big force in moving one step forward the stalled talks between developed and developing countries.”
Hatoyama, who heads the centre-left Democratic Party of Japan, said Tokyo would ask other major greenhouse gas emitters to also set tough targets on emissions blamed for raising global temperatures.
Japan, the world’s second largest economy, will formally present its goal at international talks in Copenhagen in December aimed at agreeing a follow-up treaty to the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change