Japan was a global leader in terms of antipollution policy and energy conservation during the 1970s and 1980s, partially due to research and development and the forceful implementation of its breakthroughs, and partially to the relocation of polluting industries outside of Japan. More recently, Japan has been faced by two major concerns; first, how to contribute successfully to the global reduction of CO2 emissions, and second, how to improve the energy mix of the economy.
With regard to the Kyoto goals set for 2012, by 2005 Japan was already some 8% beyond the base level of 1990, unable to achieve any significant reduction compared to 1990 by the 2008 – 2012 reference period. In June 2009, then-Prime Minister Aso announced a medium-term target for 2020 of a 15% reduction compared to 1990 levels. In September 2009, Yukio Hatoyama received considerable international attention when, as the incoming prime minister, he repeated a pre-election DPJ pledge to achieve a 30% reduction in CO2 levels by 2020 as compared to 2005 (or 25% compared to 1990), on the condition that all major emitters reached a treaty setting fair and realistic reduction levels. Domestically, he faced considerable criticism from industrial associations and trade unions, because it was feared that such an ambitious reduction might only be realized by forsaking growth. Although the DPJ had promised to install a mandatory cap-and-trade regime, which would make industrial adjustment unavoidable, as well as introduce a carbon tax, the draft bill eventually released by the Environment Ministry in February 2010 did not contain a mandatory system; moreover, it was not specified which industries would be subject to the regime.
With respect to energy mix, LDP-led governments for many years supported a growing role for nuclear energy in electricity generation. However, after a number of accidents in power plants, it became more doubtful whether such a strategy would remain politically feasible. In a remarkable policy shift, Japan introduced a feed-in tariff system in November 2009 to support renewable energies; however, this is so far limited to solar power, with a relatively short guaranteed support period of 10 years. As of April 2010, the METI industry ministry was preparing a new framework plan for energy, which was said to aim for a rise in the share of emission-free electricity sources from the current 34% to 70% in 2030.
Shigeru Sato: Japan´s Draft Climate Bill Omits Mandatory Limit on Emissions, Bloomberg News, updated 3 March 2010
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Japan): Present Status and Promotion Measures for the Introduction of Renewable Energy in Japan, (January 2010), http://www.meti.go.jp/english/policy/energy_environment/renewable/index.html