One of the potential silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is the “green recovery” — a worldwide movement to extend social tendencies that address climate change into the post-COVID world. Environmental groups are closely watching governments to see how they approach the matter, and, so far, Japan seems to be falling behind other developed economies, despite Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi's attempt to consolidate the movement online.

Former trade ministry bureaucrat and frequent administration critic Shigeaki Koga brought up the matter in the Sept. 4 issue of Shukan Asahi, where he warned that if things go the way they usually do, the government will likely address the recovery as another opportunity to prop up key industries without doing anything constructive about global warming. He mentions an article in Japan's financial daily, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, in which Akira Amari, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's tax panel chief, talked about maintaining government support for "eco cars" after the pandemic. The subsidies and tax cuts for purchases of passenger vehicles that emit less carbon may not actually do much to cut emissions because they include cars that use gasoline and diesel fuel. Such measures, Koga says, should be limited to electric vehicles and hydrogen cars.

Koga points out that even hybrid vehicles, once the shining stars of the eco car movement, are no longer considered such, and most countries that are serious about cutting emissions only provide incentives for purchases of electric vehicles. France and Germany are desperately trying to manage the economic problems brought on by the coronavirus, but are still looking to the future in terms of mitigating the effects of climate change. Amari, however, sees Japan's automotive industry as essential to the country's recovery and thus in need of government support without restrictions. Japan, Koga argues, props up ailing industries with money and no real vision for meaningful change.