Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The Future of the Kyoto Protocol
HARA Takeshi / Professor, Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University

February 28, 2005
The Kyoto Protocol, which aims to moderate the progress of global warming, took effect on February 16. For over two centuries since the Industrial Revolution, we have been discharging greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and this latest attempt at regulating emissions through legally-binding controls amounts to a grand experiment for an industrial civilization. As host nation, Japan made a committed effort for the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, and harbors a sense of discontent towards the United States for abandoning the Framework Convention on Climate Change due to the current administration's judgment on U.S. national interests, while sympathizing with Russia for ratifying the Treaty.

We shall not forget the scene at the conference center for the Third Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change held in 1997, where the Kyoto Protocol was formulated, and where around fifty Americans – members of the U.S. Senate and Congress, and of the oil and automobile industries belonging to the Global Climate Coalition – stood guard to make sure the U.S. government stayed its course on "zero reductions."

Then again, upon self-reflection we find that Japan is in no position to freely criticize America, either. True, the Japanese government moved swiftly, developing a domestic legal system aimed at stemming the tide of global warming by 1998. Thus the Law for Promoting Measures on Global Warming, the Law for Rational Use of Energy and the Law for Recycling Home Appliances were enacted.

Nevertheless, after seven years Japan's annual emissions of greenhouse gases has increased; rising by 7.6% in 2002 compared with 1990, the benchmark year adopted by the Kyoto Protocol. Under the Protocol, Japan is committed to reduce its emissions by 6% by 2010 from 1990 levels. In comparison, greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 13% in the United States against its reduction target of 7%, while they have fallen by 2.5% for the entire European Union, where the United Kingdom and France have already achieved their reduction targets of 8%, and where Germany has succeeded in reducing emissions by 18.5% against its target of 21%.

There are two reasons why Japan has been unable to reduce its greenhouse gases.

The first reason is related to the fact that while Japan has been responsible for producing roughly 13% of the world's GNP, its carbon dioxide emissions have remained at around 4.2% of the total global output. In other words, the oil shock had made a model student of Japan in terms of energy conservation and technological innovation, and efforts to further reduce greenhouse gases will result in comparatively higher costs than other countries. Such is the thinking of Japanese industries as well as of the government, bureaucracy and governing political party that represent their interests.

The second relates to Japan's policy of placing the construction of 20 additional nuclear power plants by 2010 at the center of its countermeasures for global warming. Under the current social climate in which new construction projects are being denied without exception due to direct votes cast by local inhabitants, accomplishing this goal would be next to impossible. Meanwhile, with respect to government policy for 2010 on utilizing biomass as an alternative to fossil fuel - the greatest source of greenhouse gases, the European Union is aiming to fulfill 8.5% of its primary energy needs and the United States 6.6% of its supply. In contrast, Japan's target is set at a mere 1% of its energy needs. The Japanese archipelago is covered by 25 million hectares of forest from which thinned wood is generated for disposal, and this alone amounts to as much as 3.9 million tons of biomass each year.

Japan, with abundant technology and funding, possesses the ability to come within reach of its Treaty targets - once policy is given a direction. Legal controls accorded by the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol, together with opportunities provided by the market economy, will no doubt cause a qualitative change in the direction of Japanese policy.

In the near future, Japan will realize a model policy based on legal controls and market opportunity, by means of industry-specific carbon dioxide reduction measures drafted by the government and an environmental tax system developed through measures such as the introduction of a carbon tax currently being debated by the Tax Commission.

The writer is a Professor at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

原 剛 / 早稲田大学大学院教授

2005年 2月 28日









一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟