09/14/2009, 00.00
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Hatoyama against greenhouse gases, 25% less by 2020

by Pino Cazzaniga
The election winner promises to go beyond the Kyoto Protocol. Japan becomes the world leader for the protection of creation. With the Vatican.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - By 2020 in Japan the emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will be decreased by 25% from the 1990 levels. This was announced by Yukio Hatoyama, president of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), who in a matter of days will be appointed prime minister. The generous promise, announced by Hatoyama September 7 in a speech during the Asahi World Environment Forum in Tokyo, surprised environmentalists and industrialists. The former met the news with enthusiasm, the latter with concern. The political transformation of the nation on 30 August that begun with voters is being continued by the decisions of the victorious party.

Public trust, distrust of industries

The "prime minister in waiting" without being intimidated by the predictable reactions of the industrialists, justified his decision by saying that efforts to protect the environment "is one of our [DPJ] commitments stipulated in our [election] manifesto and therefore we must have the political will to strive for its implementation using all political means [available]. " Aware that his words, because of the environmental context of the speech and the position that he is about to assume, would have been a message to the leaders of many governments around the world, he added: "We will aim to establish a fair and efficient international structure that involves all the major nations of the world "in our commitment to effectively address the problem of global warming. In this context in June, Prime Minister Taro Aso, had decided to decrease by 8% the emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the same period of time. That decision was considered very risky and ambitious by the European Union and Keidanren, the Japanese Industrial Confederation. Hatoyama has shelved the provision, replacing it with another that is, to say the least, generous and brave. At the base of the two opposing policies there are two different modes of governance. Aso is the expression of one party (LDP) now paralyzed by its collusion with industry and bureaucracy (the "iron triangle"), Hatoyama is the founder of a party ( 'DPJ), whose principle political philosophy is the priority of the human economy. The metamorphosis of Japanese politics continues. The confidence the voters gave the DPJ, has been maintained.

From the Kyoto Protocol to the meeting in Copenhagen

Hatoyama in a speech at the Forum urged the world's major nations to agree on "ambitious" targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a "precondition" for the effectiveness of Tokyo’s renewed ecological policies, presented as the "Hatoyama Initiative" It develops on a plan presented by then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to the G8 summit held at Lake Toyako (Japan), which, in essence, reached consensus on a 50% reduction in carbon dioxide level in atmosphere by 2050. The proposal, although verbally approved by the "eight" did not appear in the final joint statement because of the opposition of China and India who had been granted a sideline presence for the meeting. "We leaders of major economies in the world, whether developed or developing –the document reads- are committed to combating climate change in accordance with our common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities" (see NA July 2008) . The data on reduction percentages is missing. A dicembre di quest’anno i rappresentanti di circa 200 nazioni si riuniranno a Copenaghen per rinnovare o rifare il protocollo che, appunto, scade nel 2012.  Con il discorso di settembre al Forum Asai, Hatoyama ha indicato in anteprima una meta concreta e sufficientemente “ambiziosa” anche per gli europei.

Following this the European Union insisted that it set "ambitious" half term targets as a necessary condition to achieving the goal of 2050. With the Asai Forum speech the "prime minister in waiting" has indicated his half term goal for Japan Hatoyama also said that developing nations should make efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in “the process of achieving sustainable development and poverty eradication on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities”. The new government led by him will consider ways and will provide financial resources and technologies to assist developing nations in combating climate change. This global political movement is part of a comprehensive route that the international community began in Kyoto in 1997 after the international conference on climate change organized by the United Nations, where the "Kyoto Protocol" treaty was adopted by the international community, entering into force in 2005. The more than 150 nations that have joined are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% by 2012. In December of this year representatives of some 200 nations will gather in Copenhagen to renew or re-write the protocol which, in fact, expires in 2012. With the Asai Forum discourse in September, Hatoyama indicated a preview of the real, and sufficiently "ambitious" objective even for Europeans.

Criticism and acclaim

The promise of the next prime minister has been criticized harshly by some major industrial groups in Japan. For them the objectives of the DPJ are illusory and will put Japan in a disadvantageous position in international competition. All this is perhaps an exaggerated alarmism and shortsighted. In contrast, ecological disasters raises puts Japan’s industries in a favorable position, if they have the courage to participate in the political renewal currently underway. It has the ability to do so because, as he the columnist of the Korean newspaper Dong-A Ilbo once wrote, "Japan makes its presence felt in the world as an industry leader through its pre-eminence in ecological technologies for the reduction of greenhouse gases ". Reactions from abroad to the Hatoyama speech were positive. Yvo de Boer, secretary of the department for climate change at the United Nations (UNFCCC) said: "The DPJ intention of a 25% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels is commendable. It is in line with the needs identified by science and will hasten the process of a real change in the Japanese economy ".

Convergence with the thought of the Catholic Church

The focus of the new Japanese government for the preservation of nature is consistent with the Catholic spirit. Pope Benedict XVI's recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate reads: "The Church has a responsibility for creation and to enforce this responsibility even in public. And in doing so it must defend not only the land, water and air as gifts from all of creation; it must protect against the destruction of the man himself. " The newspaper The Japan Times, quoting an essayist for the Los Angeles Times has indicated the Vatican as a model in culture of green leadership and not just a prophet of truth. A summary of the article reads along these lines: Benedict XVI unlike other heads of state does not merely speak passionately of the urgent need to protect the planet from climate catastrophe. He has acted with two specific initiatives that are inexpensive, rapid and effective. The Vatican has announced that it will restore 15 hectares of forest in Hungary that had been cleared during the Middle Ages. The trees that grow will absorb enough carbon dioxide to offset all the pollution produced by fossil fuel used in the Vatican City. But that initiative is only a beginning. The Vatican has already begun using solar panels that cover the roof of the immense Paul VI hall used for audiences. The electricity produced is sufficient to illuminate, heat and cool the hall throughout the year. There is also a project to create the world's largest photovoltaic plant in S. Maria Galeria, Holy See territory, and home to Vatican Radio’s antennae. The energy produced will be sufficient for the entire State of Vatican City and will even provide a surplus to offer the Italian State.

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