Today, Japan announced that it would cut emissions by 15% of 2005 levels by 2020.
Perhaps a measure that this was the right target for PM Aso's government to pick is that no one seems happy with it. The World Wildlife Fund calls it "Far too little, far too late"; China's climate ambassador Yu Qingtai told Reuters: "I do not believe it is a number that is close to what Japan needs to do, should do"; and the cut was denounced by energy intensive industrues as too deep.
It will only meet this 15% target with dramatic investments into new technologies -- including a probable increase in nuclear power -- and with the purchase of overseas 'offsets'. Unlike Europe, Japan has not instituted a domestic mandatory emissions cap to meet its committments, instead it has relied on voluntary reductions and government command and control.
As an island nation, Japan faces serious threats from climate change, including sea level rise and increased damage from more powerful typhoons. However, as a resource-poor nation with few domestic sources of fossil fuel, Japan stands to gain significantly from a push into cleaner energy. Because of its resource scarcity (and consequent high prices), Japan already is one of the most efficient users of energy. By making this commitment, Japan's government clearly shows that it percieves the threats of a warming climate, and are willing to make a politically challenging stance to fight it.