On 10 June 2009, Prime Minister Taro Aso announced that Japan’s proposed emissions reduction target would be set at 15 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. In order to meet the target Tetsuo Saito, the Japanese Minister of the Environment, has recommended that Japan should focus its efforts on energy related technology development and increase the number of nuclear power plants. In connection with the proposal Aso announced an intention to increase renewables use to 20 per cent (which would involve a 20 times increase in solar generated energy) and to replace at least 50 per cent of automobiles with environmentally friendly vehicles.

The announcement of the goal followed a consultation meeting in May 2009 with experts and various entities including Keidanren, the Japanese business lobby. As a result of the meeting 6 major proposals ranging from a 4 per cent increase to a 25 per cent decrease in emission levels were submitted to be reviewed by the Cabinet. The Keidanren proposal to allow carbon emissions up to 4 per cent was in particular criticised, with the Minister of the Environment, Tetsuo Saito stating that “Japan will be laughed at for setting a goal at an increase”.

The proposed target of a 15 per cent reduction in emissions has also received some criticism internationally. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon expressed his disappointment to Prime Minister Aso’s proposal and UN climate chief Yvo de Boer told reporters that the goal was “nowhere near” the targets recommended by climate science. There was also criticism from other market participants and observers that the proposal was one of the weakest targets announced by any developed country and less than the EU goal of a minimum of 20 per cent by 2020. However, it should be noted that the Japanese emission reductions goal of 15 per cent does not include Kyoto Protocol carbon credits or afforestation offsets.

With general elections scheduled for 31 August 2009, and a change in government considered likely, further changes to Japan’s climate change policy and proposed emission reduction targets prior to the Copenhagen negotiations cannot be ruled out.