A bold Hatoyama initiative

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Japan’s new prime minister makes his debut on the international stage this week with his bold plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The so-called ‘Hatoyama Initiative’ will be announced at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s ambitious plan to cut emissions by 25 per cent from 1990 levels has been slammed by businesses which say it will damage Japan’s already stagnating economy.

On assuming office less than a week ago Yukio Hatoyama promised the Japanese a new dawn.

What the new prime minister is pledging now is a sustainable global future for many dawns to come.

Mr Hatoyama’s proposal is by far the biggest planned cut to emissions proposed by a government in the world’s second-largest economy.

And on his first trip as Japanese leader the Prime Minister plans to take his initiative to New York this week and promote it at the United Nations.

“Japan’s target on greenhouse gas emissions stresses that the world’s second largest economy has taken a bold new step in tackling global warming,” said Japan’s environment minister, Sakihito Ozawa.

“This could greatly influence other countries approach to this issue.”

It’s clear Japan is trying to win a bigger negotiating role at the UN climate change talks in Copenhagen in December which will attempt to frame an agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto protocol.

Yukio Hatoyama is certain to win acclaim abroad for his pledge to cut emissions, but back in Japan the business lobby is warning that it will undermine economic growth.

To pay for the cuts to emissions while ensuring the already sluggish economy doesn’t once more grind to a halt, it’s believed the government in Tokyo will introduce an environment tax within four years and also planning to launch a domestic emissions trading market with compulsory volume caps on emitters starting in 2011.

Households may also be encouraged to install technologies such as solar panels, and Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa says that the new government will promote nuclear power generation as a way of helping meet the new emissions target.

He argues that Japan can achieve cuts while keeping its economy ticking over.

“Environmental issues do not have to hamper economic growth,” Mr Ozawa said.

“On the contrary they can be considered a factor to promote growth. In fact, positive impacts on growth can come from curbing greenhouse gas emissions.”

That will be Yukio Hatoyama’s big selling point when he makes the Japanese Prime Minister first steps on the world stage in New York on Monday.

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