Any new carbon tax should be imposed on consumers of fossil fuels, not their importers and processors, a senior Environment Ministry official indicated Wednesday.

Speaking at a morning meeting between officials of the ministry and the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), Environment Policy Bureau Director General Yoshio Tamura said the government need not strictly follow an August 2003 Central Environment Council committee report suggesting that a carbon levy should be imposed on the so-called upstream users of those fuels.

The council is an advisory body to the ministry.

“I believe (levying the tax on importers and processors) is rather inappropriate. We would like to consider a tax system in which households bear the burden,” Tamura said, according to Nippon Keidanren officials who briefed reporters.

The Nippon Keidanren side did not directly respond to Tamura’s remarks, maintaining it firmly opposes any carbon tax because a levy of this nature would undermine the international competitiveness of domestic industry, according to the officials.

Environment Minister Yuriko Koike and Nippon Keidanren remained apart at Wednesday’s meeting on the ministry’s goal of introducing a green tax in fiscal 2005.

The country’s most powerful business lobby argued that voluntary efforts by industry, including using energy-saving technologies, is enough to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In August, a separate Central Environment Council subgroup compiled an interim report stating that levying the tax on consumers would encourage them to cut back on fossil fuel use and buy energy-saving electric appliances.

But the report also states that the cost of collecting taxes in such a system would be enormous.

Kazumoto Yamamoto, cochairman of Nippon Keidanren’s Committee on Environment and Safety and a counselor of Asahi Kasei Corp., told Wednesday’s meeting that the government should instead promote nuclear power to cut carbon dioxide emissions, according to Nippon Keidanren officials.

While harnessing nuclear energy comes with safety concerns, Koike was quoted as saying she regards atomic power as an effective measure to cut greenhouse gas emissions and promised to consider ways to ensure its safety and promote such energy.

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