U.S. exit from Paris accord might harm Japan’s emissions-cutting drive

Kyodo

The United States decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord could stall domestic efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging business lobbies to oppose new restrictions aimed at fighting global warming.

Discussions on a policy known as carbon pricing — putting a price on emissions through emissions trading and taxes — may lose momentum, analysts say. The Environment Ministry sees the policy as effective and had recently set up a panel to explore the issue.

But the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), the nation’s biggest business lobby, is strongly opposed to the policy, saying carbon pricing has no effect in countering global warming and will impose a burden on businesses.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama pledged to reduce U.S. emissions by up to 28 percent by 2025 compared with the 2005 level. But German think tank Climate Analytics estimates that under the Trump administration, emissions could rise by about 4 percent by 2025.

Analysts say Japanese businesses may be worried about becoming less competitive with their U.S. counterparts. “There needs to be careful discussions (on carbon pricing) as uncertainties over the international situation have risen” with America’s withdrawal, an analyst at a Japanese think tank said.

Environment Minister Koichi Yamamoto said in a news conference on Friday that the ministry will not back down from its push to introduce carbon pricing and wants to “deepen discussions” about the policy as an “effective tool to achieve a low-carbon society.”

“I believe the global momentum toward realizing a low-carbon society will not change despite the U.S. withdrawal,” Yamamoto said, adding that his ministry will not change its goals for 2030 and 2050.

Under the Paris deal, countries set their own emissions reduction targets and provide progressively more ambitious goals every five years. But they are not penalized for missing the goals.

By 2030, Japan plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent from 2013 levels by switching to more efficient power generation and promoting energy-saving lightbulbs, among other measures. It also aims to achieve an 80 percent cut in emissions by 2050.

Mutsuyoshi Nishimura, an environmental expert who has advised the Cabinet on global warming, said it is too early to know whether Trump’s decision will weaken international efforts to address climate change.

“It’s unlikely the solidarity between countries under the Paris agreement will weaken even with the United States’ withdrawal,” he said. Instead, the remaining signatories might strengthen coordination or establish carbon pricing, Nishimura said.

“Regardless of the stance of the Trump administration, Japan should start discussions toward implementing its own system” of carbon pricing, he said.