The Japanese elections just took place, and I’m excited to say the challengers have won in a landslide.
I’ve had two posts in the last month explaining the very real possibility of Japan having a new government before Copenhagen which aspires to much stronger emissions targets than the current one. The first explored the possibility of Japan’s current Liberal Democratic Party losing to the Japanese Democratic Party, and wondered whether the challengers had stronger positions on emissions. The old government’s commitment of a mere 8% below 1990 levels certainly didn’t move any other countries along in raising their targets. The new government’s position going into the election was 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. The second post focused on the fact that the positions the challengers held on clean energy, stronger emissions targets, and green jobs were polling really well. Based on today’s election results, it looks like the poll wasn’t far off.
So, why would Japan committing to 25% by 2020 below 1990 levels at Copenhagen be important? After all, the buzz words always thrown around are “China, India, US”. For one, Japan has the second largest economy in the world behind the United States. At the same time, they are the 5th largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, and were only recently passed by India who is number 4. There is gridlock on all sides. I might be wrong, but with the exception of the UK indicating going higher than 30%, I think Japan’s new target would be the second strongest in the world. A big problem is developed countries not coming even close to the 25-40% range necessary not just if you follow the science, but based on what would also help move developing countries along as well. If Japan can help ease gridlock amongst the richer countries and the G8, developed countries might set their sights higher.
There’s one more big reason as well, and this is also just a hunch by myself, although in college I’ve taken quite a few courses on Asia and I feel like I know it pretty well. It’s no secret that China and Japan have a pretty rough history. If I put myself in China’s shoes, yes the United States committing to stronger targets would be the most influential, but it would make sense for Japan to be the second most. It wouldn’t seem fair to China that their rival who historically has emitted a lot more than them, and who has benefited decades earlier from incredible economic growth in part because they were able to freely burn fossil fuels…can commit to such a poor target while China has to cap emissions soon.
On top of this, China knows the benefits of clean energy for economic development, and they want to dominate the global market in this sector. Some have said the best way for the US to convince China to force North Korea to give up its nuclear program is to arm Japan with nuclear weapons because China would go absolutely ballistic if their largest regional rival became a nuclear power. What would the response of China be if Japan challenged them to a clean energy race where the winner dominates the world’s largest 21st century market? I think we’re about to find out.
“Tetsuro Fukuyama, also the Democrats’ deputy policy chief, said the party’s 2020 target to cut emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels would impose regulations to curb emissions and incentives for energy conservation, increased use of renewable energy and development of green technology.”
“The minus 15 percent target versus 2005 is equivalent to a cut of only 8 percent below 1990 levels.”
“It just doesn’t go far enough,” Fukuyama said. “How can they dare to persuade China and India with that number?”