There are many fissures amongst the negotiating positions of the 190-odd countries involved in hashing out a post-Kyoto treaty to decrease global carbon emissions. But one of the more significant has been the differences amongst developed countries. The European Union has advocated for strong emissions reductions while the US has been less enthusiastic. Countries such as Japan, Australia, and Canada have been in the middle, depending on which party was in party at a particular time.
After the 2007 Australian election, one of the first international gestures of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s new government was to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol at the COP-13 meeting in Bali, helping to pave the way for the Bali Road Map.
Could something similar happen with the new Japanese government of Yukio Hatoyama? The DPJ campaigned on a climate platform that calls for a 25% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, placing them squarely in line with European targets.
Although in the past, the DPJ had called for instituting a carbon tax, during this election they dropped the demand and said that they would “consider” the idea.
It will be interesting to see how Hatoyama acts in the next few weeks on the climate issue. He will be attending a UN summit on climate change in New York sponsored by Ban Ki Moon next month which will be his first appearance on the major global stage. Many will expect him to be bold–particularly on emissions targets–since last month he met with Ban Ki Moon and unequivocally endorsed the 25% reduction.
On the other hand, the DJP election was less of an endorsement of the party’s policies as much as it was a rejection of the Liberal Party and their perceived mishandling of the economy. Because of this, it is probably not realistic to expect radical domestic policy shifts on climate. The DJP coalition has a variety of viewpoints and Japanese industry is already expressing concern about the 25% target.
Nevertheless, having Japan step away from the US position on climate is more promising for a Copenhagen agreement than would have otherwise been the case.