The 2000 white paper on the environment released Tuesday called for the introduction of an environment tax so Japan can more vigorously combat global warming and waste dumping, government officials said.

Because global warming threatens the existence of human life, government, citizens and industries should adjust their fundamental attitudes toward attaining a sustainable society, the report says.

Some European countries have already introduced measures such as taxes on gasoline and fuel oil to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and granting subsidies and tax breaks for energy-saving devices, it adds.

Japan’s environment-protection measures should also be shifted from merely controlling emissions of toxic substances to using economic measures such as taxes and subsidies, the report says.

In December, the Tax Commission urged consideration of an environment tax to protect the environment in its package of tax reform recommendations for fiscal 2000.

Japan’s rapidly graying society is expected to positively contribute to the creation of an environment-friendly society, because elderly people as a group consume less, it says.

But the elderly may also bring adverse effects such as an expected increase in the use of vehicles and air conditioners, it says.

The annual paper also says Japan’s eco-business sector will over the next 10 years grow into a 39 trillion yen market that employs more than 860,000 people.

An environmental turning point is needed for the well-being of mankind, and, as the last year of the millennium, 2000 should be that watershed, the paper says.

“The white paper makes clear that citizens must tackle environmental issues at the individual level,” agency head Kayoko Shimizu said at a press conference following the Cabinet meeting.

“When they do, it can really lend a boost to creating a more environmentally considerate society.”

Environmental issues that have arisen over the past century and currently face mankind — notably global warming, forest destruction, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity — can only be solved by collective efforts, the report contends, advocating the role of the individual consumer.

After examining the environmental effect individuals exert in their daily lives, the paper proposes ways individuals can reduce their environmental impact.

Food-recycling law

The Diet on Tuesday enacted a law that obliges food-related firms to recycle leftover or waste food so that it can be converted into resources such as livestock feed or fertilizer.

The Lower House approved the law in the day’s plenary session. The Upper House had already passed it.

Drafted by the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, the legislation is expected to enter into force next April.

The ministry will set up a framework for a five-year period under which restaurants, food makers and supermarkets will be obliged to recycle about 20 percent of their annual waste food.

The legislation targets waste such as food whose expiration dates have passed and restaurant scraps.

The agriculture minister will have the power to recommend corrective steps against food firms that do not live up to approved recycling programs and to release the names of such businesses.

The minister will also be able to order the businesses to comply with the recommendations. Violators will face fines of up to 500,000 yen.

The ministry is considering applying the law to about 16,000 businesses that produce more than 100 tons of waste food per year.

According to the agriculture ministry, about 9.40 million tons of waste food is produced every year, of which only 1.65 million tons, or 17 percent, is reused. The remainder is either buried or burned.