From: The Yomiuri Shimbun
Published March 31, 2005 12:00 AM

Tough Steps Urged to Cut CO2 Emissions in Japan

TOKYO — A Japanese government task force approved a draft plan Tuesday for measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that significantly strengthens existing measures for fighting global warming, aiming at fulfilling the nation's obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.


The government's Global Warming Prevention Headquarters, headed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, included in the draft plan additional measures to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by industries, transportation and households. It also said the government would "comprehensively consider" the introduction of an environment tax, which was a focal point of discussion of the measures, but which the government failed to reach an agreement on this time.


The Cabinet is scheduled to approve the draft plan in early May after the government assesses public opinion.


Greenhouse gas emissions in fiscal 2002 increased 7.6 percent from 1990 levels. The protocol, which took effect on Feb. 16, stipulates that Japan should reduce its emissions by 6 percent of those levels, and it is now thought that it will be difficult for the nation to achieve this goal.


The draft plan, the basic philosophy of which is "pursuing both environmental protection and economic achievements," calls for the participation and cooperation of the central and local governments, enterprises and the public, saying the nation "aims to be the leading environmentally friendly nation and to promote the innovation of related technology."


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The government aims to keep the increase of carbon dioxide emissions down to 0.6 percent in fiscal 2010 from the 1990 level by promoting energy-saving facilities and devices, improving the efficiency of distribution systems and promoting the use of natural energy for power generation.


Also, it aims to achieve the goal stipulated in the protocol by reducing the emission of other kinds of greenhouse gases, such as methane and alternatives for chlorofluorocarbons, improving the maintenance of forests, which absorb CO2, and utilizing emission quota transactions.


As for the introduction of an environment tax, to be used as funding for emission-reduction measures, the Environment Ministry insisted that a financial backup was necessary to realize the measures stipulated in the draft plan. But the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry was cautious about introducing the tax, saying the goal stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol could be achieved within the current budget framework.


As a result, the introduction of the tax was described in the plan to be an "issue to be considered comprehensively and sincerely." It is expected that the government will start comprehensive discussions on the tax in autumn.


Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News


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