In pursuit of "Japan as a Low-carbon Society"
Speech by H.E. Mr Yasuo Fukuda, Prime Minister at the Japan Press Club
Embassy of Japan
The following are excerpts from 'In pursuit of "Japan as a Low-carbon Society" delivered on June 9 by Prime Minister Fukuda at the Japan Press Club.
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has repeatedly warned, if we fail to address the issue global warming, it will force future generations into a critical situation We must greatly shift the country’s helm towards a low-carbon society for the sake of future generations.
Global warming is a global problem which knows no borders. Hence a broad, world-level perspective is the first requirement when discussing global warming. Achieving a low-carbon society requires a dual perspective: the need for a global undertaking, and at the same time that for grass-roots action by the whole nation.
First, we should view the transition to a low-carbon society as "a new opportunity for economic growth". Countermeasures to global warming will create new demand, new jobs and new income. A low-carbon society is one that offers great opportunities for economic activity that is compatible with the environment. Secondly, clues on how to achieve a low-carbon society already exist in Japan’s inherent qualities and its traditions. At the source of Japanese culture lies the idea of coexistence with nature The spirit of mottainai (not being wasteful) will certainly serve as a keyword in low-carbon societies to come.
In order seriously to achieve our long-term goal of halving CO2 emissions by 2050, it is vital that the world’s total emissions peak out in roughly the next ten to twenty years. The sectoral approach which I proposed at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos is none other than a methodology for achieving such a realistic solution.
The European Union (EU) has set the goal of reducing emissions by 20% compared to the 1990 level by 2020. This will require a 14% reduction from the current (2005) level. Advanced in the field of energy conservation, Japan has already achieved energy efficiency rates that greatly exceed those of the EU countries. Notwithstanding, Japan recently announced that it is possible for it to achieve a further reduction of 14% from the current level, a reduction of the same order as that to be made by the EU.
What then can we do to accomplish this? The concrete policies I have formulated consist of four main pillars. First, developing innovative technologies while disseminating existing advanced technologies; Second, framework-building to move the entire country to lower carbon emissions; Third, active roles to be played by local regions; and Fourth, having each citizen as protagonist in reducing emissions.
Secondly, we need to ensure that biofuel production is sustainable by carrying out such undertakings as to accelerate research on second-generation biofuels, which do not require food crops as feedstock, in order to bring them into practical production, so that global food security does not suffer on account of biofuel production.
Thus in order to further accelerate efforts to develop innovative technologies, I intend to propose at the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit an "International Partnership for Environment and Energy" which would encompass collaboration with international organizations.
In order to achieve a low-carbon society, we will need to make full use of existing advanced technologies until innovative technologies are developed. If we were to reduce our emissions by 14% from the current level by 2020, as I outlined earlier, we must increase to above 50% the ratio of "zero-emission power supply," consisting of renewable energy sources that include solar, wind and hydro energy, biomass and untapped energy sources, as well as nuclear power. At the same time, we must also achieve several ambitious goals, such as introducing next-generation vehicles at the rate of one in every two new units sold.
I now also intend to press ahead with a wide range of low-carbon policies, including the development of systems for mandatory energy-efficient housing and office buildings, accelerating the introduction of renewable energy to office buildings, and promoting housing which lasts two hundred years. There is a need to ensure active use of methods which encourage the development of technologies and the reduction of emissions by pricing CO2 transactions and making full use of market mechanisms.
As one such method, an emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) was introduced within the EU in 2005. Japan should not devote endless time and effort merely to find problems with the scheme. I believe we should rather shift to a more proactive approach, for example propose a more effective set of rules.
When a fundamental reform of the tax system is considered this autumn, we will not limit consideration to the expenditure purposes of revenue which is to be re-allocated from road construction to general purposes. We will conduct a comprehensive review of the system with a view to promoting a low carbon society, including consideration of an environment tax, and thereby promote greening of the tax system.
This will be done from a broad perspective, and will include the possibility of introducing tax incentives for restricting CO2 emissions from cars, household appliances and housing construction.
The Fukuda Cabinet is currently tackling head-on a range of major issues, including reform of the social security system, fundamental reform of the tax system, integration of consumer policy, and reform of the civil service. A common thread that links all of these efforts is the need to rise above traditional methods and modes of thinking: without doing so we cannot devise solutions that are truly suited to meeting the challenges of the present day.
Global environmental issues cannot be resolved by some spectacular measure. The industrial sector and each member of the public must change their mode of thinking, and it is paramount that we work with countries around the world to move things forward in a steady and sustained manner. This issue can only be resolved by changing all of the following: economies, societies, communities and lifestyles.
The transcript of the entire speech is available at: