- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

Japan's Diet may become even more appropriately named if it ever passes legislation submitted by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi earlier this year realizing the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Mr. Koizumi's environmental minister, Hiroshi Oki, is reportedly hoping to jaw with President Bush about tightening U.S. compliance with Kyoto's strictures during the president's three-day stay in Japan. However, Kyoto compliance is simply indigestible for both countries. Compliance would force Japan to cut its emissions of greenhouse gasses to 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Considering that, even with its moribund economy, Japan had already exceeded the 1990 limits by almost 7 percent as of fiscal 1999, some sort of draconian belt-tightening would seem appropriate.
But the government proposed instead a fattened-up public relations er, public awareness campaign (perhaps Al Gore could help), coupled with a phased-in emissions reductions regime more attenuated than the Bush tax cut (stage 1 one terminates in 2004, stage 2 in 2007, and stage 3 in 2012) and paper-thin compliance measures, including a recommendation that businesses begin divulging the volume of greenhouse gasses they emit. If they decide not to, however, they won't pay any penalties. And consumers won't pay extra for any additional consumption, since no environmental taxes of any sort are called for.
All of this suggests that Japan's chances of actually complying with the protocol are pretty slim, and that the Koizumi government knows it. Rumors that the Japanese government would back out have persisted ever since it agreed to the Bonn agreement, whose signers agreed to dilute reduction targets but failed to resolve their differences on such "minor matters" as compliance measures and carbon sinks. Those differences haven't been resolved, thanks in part to the Japanese government's concern over Kyoto's true costs.
Kyoto's gigantic costs are a well-justified concern. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that meeting Kyoto targets could cost industrialized countries up to 2 percent of their 2010 gross domestic product (GDP). Japan is predicted to lose less than that eight averaged IPCC estimates predicted a 2010 loss of about .8 percent of GDP in the absence of a carbon-trading regime. Even assuming that Japan's economy does not grow beyond its 1998 levels for the next decade, that still comes out to about $30 billion. That's a lot of dough, especially considering that Japan's economy is already unhealthy its growth has been anemic for the past decade, and its banks are overburdened with bad loans. Last year, nearly 20,000 Japanese companies went bankrupt, the second-highest total since World War II.
Kyoto compliance represents simply another bad investment for Japan's citizens. After all, developing countries are exempted from the treaty, and almost none of the countries in the developed world have ratified it. Even if all of those developed countries not only ratified the treaty but also reduced their emissions, the net reductions in global temperature would be tiny. Slimming Japan's economy to squeeze into the strictures of Kyoto is about as healthy as starving an anorexic. For the sake of the economic health of Japan and the United States, Mr. Bush should refuse to swallow any Kyoto compliance proposals dangled in front of him by the Japanese government.


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