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Vision for a Low-Carbon Japan: Cutting Carbon Emissions 60-80 Percent

Vision for a Low-Carbon Japan: Cutting Carbon Emissions 60-80 Percent

"Thanks to the world's efforts, carbon emissions now remain within thecapacity of global carbon sink, and the global warming crisis has inreality disappeared. We are fully relieved to know that we can hand downthe planet to future generations in good conscience. Turning to people's lives, locally produced foods are being consumed inthe local communities, and people's anxieties about food security in thefuture have been alleviated. Renewable energy use has dramaticallyincreased, resulting in less serious concerns about energy security.With the achievement of comprehensive recycling and the implementationof maximum energy conservation in homes, people enjoy an extremelycomfortable living environment. Public transportation such as trains,buses and light rail transit (LRT) are available everywhere we lookacross the country, and cars run on non-fossil fuel. Many cyclists enjoysafe and comfortable riding space. Agricultural, fishing and mountain villages in Japan are now revitalized,and people are smiling again after long periods of hardship.Communication between people in urban and rural areas is active, andthese areas are financially linked with each other. The Japanese islandsjust seem to live as one. The world is now the Spaceship Earth, and allpeople are its crew, full of the sense of solidarity. --Will our grandchildren praise and appreciate our efforts to overcome amultitude of difficulties? Or will they ask us, 'Why did you do nothingeven when you knew what you should do? What priorities did you have thatwere more important than your children?' Each of us today holds thechoice in our own hands.To bring this vision to reality, we must take action now."Japanese mass media and non-governmental organizations issuedassessments of the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit 2008 which pointed out itwas regrettable that the summit could not bring about complete agreementon the long-term target, and put off the interim target. On the otherhand, they did admit that the persistence of the approach takenvis-a-vis the United States averted the worst-case scenario. With a view to forging a strong foundation for demonstrating itsleadership as the host country of the Toyako Summit, Japan's PrimeMinister Yasuo Fukuda announced a set of proposals for Japan - theso-called Fukuda Vision - on June 9, 2008, a month ahead of the summit.He set out a long-term plan to reduce Japan's carbon emissions by 60 to80 percent by 2050. In drawing up the Fukuda Vision, the Prime Minister's Advisory Panel onClimate Change was brought into the process in February 2008. Twelvemembers, including representatives of academia, think tanks, andindustries, held interactive discussions with the Prime Minister fivetimes. The statement quoted at the beginning of this article is found inthe concluding paragraphs of the proposal submitted by the panel to thePrime Minister.I (Junko Edahiro, one of the chief executives of Japan forSustainability) was invited by the panel to join the discussion,although representatives of NGOs are rarely chosen as members of thiskind of panel in Japan. The draft of a proposal or a report is generallyprepared by the panel's secretariat consisting of government officials,but responding to my suggestion, members of the panel volunteered tocreate the draft, making this report an unusual example of its kind. The full text of the proposals is available on the following site:Proposal of the Council on the Global Warming Issue - In Pursuit of"Japan as a Low-Carbon Society."http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/hukudaphoto/2008/06/16proposal.pdfPrime Minister Fukuda declared that this proposal will function as anaction agenda for the future, and thus it contains a full treatment ofthe present situation and a direction for the future. I would like tointroduce an outline of its full content, with excerpts.(If you have any comments or feedback, please let us know so that thepanel can share them.)1. The Time We Are Living in NowIf we fail to stop global warming, neglecting the necessary actionswhile continuing to depend on non-renewable resources and fossil fuels,we will end up by forcing future generations into a critical situation.Instead, if we act now, the future as well as the present generationscan lead happy lives. We are indeed standing at a crucial crossroads.2. Our Challenge -- a Low-Carbon Society In short, a viable society is one where the amount of carbon dioxide(CO2) we emit is within the range that the earth can naturally absorb,at the same time we are leading even more pleasant lives.In other words, human beings are looking for a low-carbon society thatis sustainable. In such a society, people will cease economic activitiesand lifestyles that emit a large amount of CO2, the dominant greenhousegas. Everyone will take responsibility for their CO2 emissions, andglobal energy supply-demand problems can also be eased. 3. What the World Society Needs to ShareA significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is essential torealize a low-carbon society. For this, the world must set a loftyreduction target - "to halve global CO2 emissions by the year 2050."4. Japan's ResolutionPrime Minister Fukuda has declared that Japan needs to reduce 60 to 80percent of its current level of emissions to meet the long-term 2050goal. To realize this, Japan will have to steadily develop innovativetechnologies based on the plan. A mid-term goal, on the other hand, hasto be high-spirited and utilize a bottom-up approach applied on asectoral basis in order to make it fair and effective.5. Fundamental Approach to a Low-Carbon SocietyThe global warming issue is not limited to carbon policy alone. Itconcerns Japan's economic and social basics such as the environment,resources, energy, food, water and industrial infrastructure, includingfuture industries. To think of this issue is to think of Japan in the21st century and a new round of nation building.It is assumed that shifting to a low-carbon society will only take placeat enormous social cost. Japan's particular institutional design shouldbe taken into consideration so that these costs will be appropriatelyborne, not only industries, but also by citizens.Japanese citizens need to understand that the low-carbon society we areaiming at cannot be a mere extension of our familiar daily lives. Weshould be prepared to accept the lifestyle changes that will emerge inthe change-over process.6. Moving toward a Low Carbon Society(1) InnovationTo create a low-carbon society, innovation is essential, particularly inthe areas of:(a) technology,(b) energy,(c) financing, and(d) society.To promote social innovation, new mechanisms must be established thatcan mobilize all members of the society to achieve the goal. One suchmechanism - "putting a price on carbon" - will play a significant role.Many citizens and businesses are accustomed to think that emitting CO2does not cost anything, but now they have to realize that they must payfor the environmental costs incurred. This means that additional carboncosts will be included in the prices of goods and services, in this wayrequiring them to be responsible for their carbon emissions.(2) Players InvolvedAchieving the carbon reduction goals will require the involvement of allplayers throughout society, that is, the national government, localgovernments and communities, businesses, households and individuals. (a) National government(b) Local governments and communities   <i>  Environmental model cities   <ii> Roles of agriculture, fisheries and forestry(c) Businesses, households and individuals Businesses, households and individuals will have to change their stylesof business or daily life in accordance with the shift to a low-carbonsociety. Based on the concept of "Mottainai," meaning "waste not, wantnot," they will have to reduce their use of energy and resources,replace these with renewable sources, and offset their carbon emissions.This will require creative efforts and initiatives in addition toconserving energy; for example, active use of information technology (IT),use of public transportation and car-sharing, promotion of the 3Rs(reduce, reuse and recycle), installation of solar panels and purchasinggreen power certificates.7. Raising Public Awareness and the Government's Responsibility Raising public awareness is essential for the transition to a low-carbonsociety. People have to reconcile their lives with the limits of Earth'sfinite resources. Awareness-raising campaigns must call on people todevelop a new mindset that allows them to accept social and lifestylechanges.The government has a responsibility to set the course for a low-carbonsociety. Its role is to create a national vision and provide cleardirection to citizens and businesses so that they can move forwardwithout hesitation or anxiety. In the absence of such a definite policy,no one will take serious action.It is also the government's role to give people hope and revitalize thesociety.(Written by Junko Edahiro)
source: Japan for Sustainability

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