22 September 2009

Japan: We've Got a Strong Goal, But Not a Clue How to Meet It

Japan's new government has set forth a strong goal for emissions reductions by 2020, but admits that it really doesn't know how it is going to meet that goal:

Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa said Sunday that Japan's new goal for cutting greenhouse gas emissions will put the country in a strong position at international negotiations on climate change. But details of how the government will achieve the ambitious goal of reducing emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 has yet to be crafted within the new government, Ozawa admitted.
Magical solutions, anyone?

Meantime, my paper evaluating Japan's Mamizu climate policy has been provisionally accepted for publication. I'll post up the final pre-publication version by tomorrow once I finalize and submit. Meantime, here is how I conclude the paper:
If climate policy is to be about more than symbolic exhortation, then it will necessary for goals to be more than aspirational. Japan’s Mamizu climate policy targets for 2020 and 2050 announced in mid-2009 were exceedingly ambitious, and if they are to be criticized, it should be for being too aggressive, not too weak. Should Japan actually succeed with respect to its short-term target then it will have achieved a carbon intensity of its economy lower than that of France in 2006 by the end of the decade, representing a decrease in emissions per unit of GDP of about 33%. If the world economy were to be as carbon efficient as implied by Japan’s 2020 target, then global carbon dioxide emissions in 2006 would have been only 40% of their actual value.

Regardless of the nature of changes to the composition of the Japanese government in coming months and years, there is considerable merit in encouraging Japan to actively seek to achieve its Mamizu climate policy because its successes and shortfalls will provide a valuable body of experience to other countries seeking to achieve similar goals. Should Japan choose to depart from its proposed Mamizu climate policy to one based on (even more) impossible targets and timetables than they may find themselves the subject of international applause rather than condemnation. At the same time such a shift would signify a desire to meet the symbolic needs of international climate politics while sacrificing the practical challenge of decarbonization policy. Conventional approaches to climate policy have thus far borne little fruit, but that is a topic that goes well beyond this brief analysis. Diversity in climate policy should be encouraged.
Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2009 (provisionally accepted). Mamizu Climate Policy: An Evaluation of Japanese Carbon Emissions Reduction Targets, Environmental Research Letters.