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Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.34 (June 11, 2009)

"The generation that saved the future"
-- Message from the Prime Minister
(Provisional Translation)

Prime Minister Taro AsoProfile Japanese

"[We need] as leaders to offer life and hope to our people where there seems to be only despair and desperation."

These were the solemn words spoken to me at a summit meeting of the island countries of the Pacific, by the President of the Republic of Kiribati, a beautiful island nation in the South Pacific. For a certain house, the shore which until a few years ago was one kilometre distant now looms at just a few hundred meters away. Kiribati's islands may be submerged by the sea and disappear. This is indeed a grave plea to the international community.

The Earth, and future generations, now stand at a critical juncture. Those of us alive today have a responsibility to preserve our beautiful Earth for future generations.

For our reduction target of greenhouse gases (GHGs) for 2020, the so-called "mid-term target," I decided on a 15 percent reduction from the 2005 level. Meeting this target would involve a greater reduction of emissions than the "14 percent reduction" option presented by experts, by boldly taking in contributions in the area of solar power generation, an area where Japan is strong, and elsewhere. It is an extremely ambitious target.

If we were to choose an even greater reduction target, we would be in a situation for example where we could only allow the construction of houses with solar panels, or where we would have to continue giving out massive amounts of subsidies. Moreover, the public burden would be excessive. An option of a 30 percent reduction from the 2005 level (25 percent from the 1990 level) would mean a burden of 360,000 yen per year, or 30,000 yen per month. I, in a position of responsibility, cannot ask the public to accept such an option.

The Japanese target I decided goes beyond the mid-term targets of Europe, which stands at a 13 percent reduction from the 2005 level, and that of the Obama administration of the US, which is a 14 percent reduction from the same year.

In order to lead the world in the low-carbon revolution, should we not have the resolve to step ahead and to make twice the effort? This is what I believe.

Of course, in the course of future international negotiations we will strive to achieve the participation of all major emitters. Under the Kyoto Protocol, reduction commitments have been made by countries which emit only three tenths of the world's total emissions. The forthcoming framework needs to include all major emitters including the United States, China, and India.

International equity is also important. If stringent obligations are imposed on Japan alone, Japanese factories will move to other countries with lighter commitments. This would merely mean that money and jobs move overseas and total global GHGs could end up increasing instead.

The government will exert strong leadership, aiming for the participation of all major emitters. We will also take part in international negotiations assiduously and ensure that Japan alone will not be placed at an unfair disadvantage.

In carrying out measures for addressing global warming, there are burdens that the public must be asked to bear. To meet the target, the burden per household is estimated to be around 80,000 yen per year, or around 6,000 yen per month.

In recent public opinion polls, after becoming aware of these burdens, nearly half the people surveyed supported a reduction of 14 percent from the 2005 emissions level, a reduction very close to the target I have stated.

I should like to express my deep respect for the sound judgement of the public. Together with the people of Japan, I will advance forward toward the achievement of the chosen target.

We shall become "the generation that saved the future" so that children in generations to come can look back on history and say, "That was the era when they achieved the low-carbon revolution and protected the Earth for us." I ask for your understanding and cooperation.

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General Editor: Prime Minister Taro Aso
Chief Editor: Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Jun Matsumoto
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan

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