Is Japan's Future Sustainable?


By the second quarter of this century, Asia will be the centre of gravity of the world economy and China will be leading the world. But while the US used ‘democracy’ as its defining diplomatic principle in the 20th century, the big question is–what will China use?

‘Sustainability’ would be a good one. CO2 emissions per capita in China will still be far below those of the US around 2030 and an affluent China will lead developing countries in advocating sustainability.

So how will Japan define itself to survive the next several decades–will its diplomacy emphasize democracy or sustainability? Of course, it must choose sustainability. Prime Minister Hatoyama has declared a goal of a 25% reduction of greenhouse gases compared with 1990 by 2020. This is a 180 degree shift in policy compared with the LDP’s ‘no policy’ approach to climate change for the last decade.

But is Japan a leader in sustainable technologies and their dissemination? The ratios of new wind power installations in 2008 were 31% in the US, 23% in China, and 1% in Japan. By this measure, Japan is 8th in the world. Meanwhile, China’s target for renewable energy is 15% of all its energy consumption by 2020. Japan must realize that it is not at present at the forefront of renewable technologies and their dissemination.

The DPJ is now planning to use both environmental taxation and emissions trading to meet the 25% reduction policy target. At present, it seems that the two approaches are being tackled by different teams. But as both policies increase the price of carbon emissions, they should be designed by the same unit of the government as should other policies such as subsidies and investment in a green new deal. In other words, key policies must be coordinated to make them more effective and synergistic.

The DPJ’s manifesto also pledges to lift the gasoline tax, a move that will increase the consumption of gasoline and thus emissions of carbon dioxide, SOx, and NOx. The Hatoyama administration must explain how it feels such a policy is consistent with its environmental policies.

If Japan is to survive, it must have sustainable environmental policies suited to the next few decades.

Tatsuyoshi Saijo is a professor at Research Institute of Sustainability Science, Osaka University

iqbal f
March 27, 2013 at 10:43

i couldn't agree more with TKO. Wind power or other renewable energy, shouldn't be the sole yardstick for progressive implementation of renewable/sustainable energy @ energy saving policy. People do forget that Japan had, in fact implement staggered, small, step-by-step yet significant green energy/ power saving iniatives.

Note inverter-equipped electrical applicances, isn't Japan one of the leader in the market? How about hybrid cars now found in mass number on the road with Toyota & Honda emblem? aren't those contributing to a more sustainable/green world we are living in?

The keyword is i believe, look at the "bigger picture" & everybody should play their part.





Ralph Sato
June 5, 2011 at 09:24

Japan’s survivability not to mention its sustainability has become more urgent since this article was written because of the earthquake-tsunami and the resulting Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in NE Japan. Most recently PM Kan Naoto has barely survived a no-confidence vote of the Diet by volunteering to resign when the Fukushima plant has been stabilized. The problem in my view is not that Kan underperformed but that the political system in Japan needs to be reformed to prevent the kind of political gamesmanship that causes the dysfunctional uncooperative behavior that made Kan’s job much harder than it should have been. He made some exemplary policy changes in the face of huge uncertainty following the triple nuclear meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi such as the suspension of the dangerous Hamaoka power plant operations and the start of a much needed review of Japan’s nuclear future. In the meantime, Kan did not interfere with Softbank president Masayoshi Son’s plans to fund a massive solar power plan with various prefectural governments. Kan said he thinks Japan needs to move away from nuclear to solar and wind power generation of electricity. He is taking advantage of the crisis thinking to initiate a change in power policy to safer renewable energy sources which is a long needed change in Japan. The only country so far to have made use of the crisis atmosphere caused by Fukushima Daiichi has been the Federal Bundesrepublik of Angela Merkel.

September 1, 2010 at 01:51

Why is wind power the sole measure of renewable energy?? If that is the case, then of course China and the U.S.,with its abundant land for use, be on top of the list. Japan is focusing on nuclear power since it just can’t do much with wind. Solar is high on the list too, but nuclear is probably the top since Japan gets 30% of its power from it.

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