Japan After the Quake: Prospects for Climate Policy

FNI Climate Policy Perspectives 1, October 2011

The triple calamity of 11 March 2011 has dealt a serious blow domestically to the credibility of the Japanese nuclear industry, putting the country's energy policy in flux.

The severe impact on the country's infrastructure, the unwieldiness of its bureaucracy and the chaotic political situation preclude Japan's energy policy from explicitly re-orientating itself before the middle of 2012, but political consensus seems to be emerging that the country's mid-term pledge on emission reductions will need to be curtailed.

The bill on renewable energy passed under Prime Minister Kan marked a step in the right direction, but was shallow and politically opportunistic. Its future impact on policy is uncertain.

With other policy instruments on climate proposed by the Democratic Party of Japan toothless or abandoned, Tokyo's ability to engage in significant mitigation activities domestically is in question.

Opposition to a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol remains firm; Japan will continue to pursue bilateral mechanisms outside the UNFCCC framework.

Given its frail domestic policy and a stated readiness to act internationally outside multilateral frameworks, Japan's promise to carry out significant mitigation activities even in the absence of a clear and comprehensive post-2012 legal instrument should be viewed with a critical eye.