Results of the 5th Follow-up|
to the Keidanren Voluntary Action Plan on the Environment
-- Section on Global Warming Measures --
Basic Thinking on the Problem of Global Warming
Today 50 industries participate in the Keidanren Voluntary Action Plan on the Environment, engaging in vigorous efforts to deal with the problem of global warming. Of these, 34 industries in the industrial and energy-converting sectors have established a unified goal of "endeavoring to reduce CO2 emissions from the industrial and energy-converting sectors in fiscal 2010 to below the levels of fiscal 1990." These efforts have been steadily paying off, shown as improvement in CO2 emissions intensity and energy intensity, and shift to less carbon intensive forms of energy, and CO2 emissions in the fiscal 2001 decreased by 3.2% in comparison with fiscal 1990 partly due to the stagnation of the economy. Consequently, measures adopted by industry hereafter to deal with global warming should continue to be composed primarily of voluntary efforts.
Each year Keidanren carries out detailed follow-up surveys by industry of the progress being made under voluntary action plans, and announces its findings widely through the Internet and other media. Related councils of government also review the results of these annual surveys, and report their conclusions to joint meetings of all such councils, which are called for the purpose of evaluating domestic measures on the problem of global warming.
To enable industry to continue to operate within the framework of a voluntary action plan over the medium-to-long term by securing enhanced credibility for the voluntary approach hereafter, participating industries established the Third-party Evaluation Committee in July 2002. They will constantly improve the quality of the follow-up survey from next year on by taking into account the final report of the committee to be issued by the end of March 2003.
Industry is going to contribute to dealing with global warming with technological development, which is key to solve the problem in the long run. Since the oil crisis Japanese industry has saved energy by more than 20%, much larger than foreign industries. In order to further reduce its CO2 emissions, drastic technological development is indispensable, together with fully utilizing existing technology including nuclear energy. The government is requested to determine anti-global warming technology as one of the axes of its strategy for technological development and give medium-to-long term supports to the private sector to facilitate their technological development.
Because it does not emit CO2, promoting the use of nuclear energy is also an issue of utmost importance from the standpoint of dealing with global warming. Industry together with national and local governments must promote the use of nuclear energy by endeavoring to the fullest extent to ensure the safety of nuclear power, as well as to make more information available in order to obtain the understanding of the nation.
According to CO2 emissions by sector in fiscal 2000 announced by the Ministry of Environment, despite the fact that the energy-converting and industrial sectors have kept CO2 emissions virtually unchanged since fiscal 1990, CO2 emissions in the offices and households sector and in the transportation sector have risen respectively by 21.3% and 20.6%, accounting for 46.5% of total CO2 emissions in Japan in the year.
The government must recognize that many of the measures required in the transportation, offices and household sector directly impact the everyday life of the nation. It must endeavor to educate and enlighten the people on the difficult tasks that will be required to achieve the nation's goals, and on the importance of the people's role in these tasks; in addition, it must formulate measures that will be effective in reducing CO2, including infrastructure improvements designed to eliminate traffic congestion.
Industry also will contribute, as it has been doing, to reduction of CO2 emissions in the transportation, offices and households sectors achieving top-runner standards by technological development. At the same time, it will take other possible steps, e.g. emissions reduction in the household sector through education program for employees.
Britain and other countries are using agreements established between governments and industries or companies as a means of preventing global warming; some are arguing that the same approach should be adopted in Japan. However, as past examples show, there is a strong likelihood that such agreements would be inflexible and unilateral in Japan-and be very much in the nature of regulations or restrictions. So, executing global warming measures through such agreements risks undermining the flexibility that is the inherent advantage of voluntary efforts, and should not be adopted without adequate consideration.
Some also argue that the formulation of action plans should be made compulsory. However, efforts by industry to suppress emissions of greenhouse gases are most effective when the most knowledgeable parties about the operations involved-the industries themselves-voluntarily develop and execute such plans. Compelling businesses to develop and adopt action plans will seriously undermine the advantages of voluntary efforts, and thus are not desirable.
Creating a system of domestic emissions trading premised on the establishment of compulsory emissions limits would be inappropriate because they amount to creating extremely tight economic controls, would be unsuitable to a market economy, and be difficult to administer fairly. Moreover, particularly in the case of Japan, the goals for energy conservation have been set at very high levels, which suggests that businesses may not generate sufficient leeway to enable them to release unused emission credits onto the domestic market.
Some insist on introduction of environmental taxes (including carbon tax and carbon-energy tax) as a means for sustaining CO2 emissions reduction. However, global warming is an issue that gives deep impacts on economic activities as well as daily life of individual people. This is why positive participation and cooperation of the whole nation are indispensable for its solution. Already industry has actively and successfully been tackling the issue of global warming, principally through the voluntary action plan by which companies can fully utilize their creative ideas. Such efforts can only be sustainable based on sound operation of the firms. Therefore, careful consideration is needed particularly on the introduction of measures that might undermine competitiveness of industry.
Environmental taxes should not be regarded as objectives in themselves. In the first place, comprehensive research and evaluation from the mid-to-long-term viewpoints should be conducted on the effectiveness of environmental taxes and their impact on the economy, as well as relations with the existing tax system including various taxes on energy and automobiles. Industry itself will look closely into this issue.
Global warming is a global issue requiring a framework for greenhouse gas emissions reduction participated by all the countries and regions. It is urged to launch discussion immediately on how to set targets for future commitment periods starting from the year 2013 by which all the countries (including the U.S., the largest emitter, and developing countries, expecting huge increase in their emissions as their population expands and economy develops) could protect environment in harmony with economic development in the middele-and-long run.
The Kyoto mechanism exists as an effective option for achieving the Kyoto target while balancing environment and economy, and requires the rapid adoption of concrete international rules. In this, the voluntary participation of the private sector will be essential, so there is a need to construct a framework that facilitates its participation such as simple procedures and clear right to the credit obtained.