Environmental Policy

List Of The Committee Members Of Research Panel_List of the committee members_Introduction

(INTRODUCTION)

1 Purport of the activity of the Research Panel

With the Twenty-first century near at hand, many of today's environmental problems which we are facing are different in its characteristics from the severe industrial pollution that we had before. Since the industrial revolution in Eighteenth century, industrialization and the gravitation of population towards cities have caused various pollution problems all around the world. Japan was also modernized by enhancing and industrializing policies, but at the same time, social problems, such as Ashio copper mine, appeared. At the time of high growth of Japanese economy after World War II, environmental problems, such as air pollution or water pollution, were caused mainly by industrial activity sections.
To solve these problems, the Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control were enacted, and emission of pollutants from main generated origin was controlled thoroughly. As the result of these countermeasures taken by the whole country, we could escape from passing critical situations of industrial pollution problems.
However, since 1975, by the effect of progress of urbanization, diversification of life styles of the people or others, normal social and economic activity and behaviors accompanied by daily life has become the generating cause of environmental problems. The social system of mass production, mass consumption and mass disposal brought by economic development of Twentieth century and internationalization of human economic activities caused global environmental problems beyond the boundary and generations, such as global warming or conserving bio diversity, and became the centering subjects of new environmental problems.
Unlike industrial pollution, these problems are difficult to be seen directly, and we tend to have less risk consciousness. But they are the risk which can threaten the foundation of human life.
Under these circumstances, international society began to take necessary measures. As for global warming, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988, and reviewing work of global warming from the point of view of science, effects and measures began. In 1995, the secondary evaluation report was prepared. According to the most standard prediction simulation in the report, it is estimated that if carbon dioxide emission in 2100 becomes a little less than three times of that in 1990, the average air temperature of the whole world in 2100 will increase by 2ºC compared with that of 1990 and the water-level of sea Surface will increase by about 50 centimeters.
In Japan, backed by the society of mass production, mass consumption and mass disposal, it is backward in improvement of urban and domestic pollution, such as air pollution by automobile emission or water pollution by sewage, caused by normal business activities or daily life, and the increase of the amount of the wastes is becoming the big environmental problem.
It became limited to solve these environmental problems caused by accumulation of daily environmental loads only by traditional regulatory measures. Not only the environmental measures in a company and countermeasures in industry, but also reviewing of the traditional life style of ours and social / economic system is required.
To do this, it should be based to change the way of thinking that environment is free property which we can use for free. We should accept the way of thinking that our daily socioeconomic activities are formed by the benefit of environment and that we should pay the cost for its preservation, or the rental fee of the earth properly.
On this kind of basic recognition, The Research Panel was established in August, 1994. In The Research Panel, as a measure to construct the society which enables continuous development of less load to the environment, we have paid attention to the utilization of economic instruments, such as environmental taxes, and have conducted wide range of researches, centering on the environmental preservation effectiveness of economic instrument and the effects on Japanese economy.

2 The results of the study of The Research Panel until now

This Research Panel held meeting twenty three times since the establishment in August, 1994, and has conducted researches mainly on environmental taxes and charges. During that time, we have held hearings of opinions relating to economic instruments from the industry, local public bodies, consumers' organization and NGO to arrange and announce the opinions from every point of view. In November, 1995, we held a symposium, ''Thinking about Global Warming, the role of economic instruments," and conducted activities, such as keynote speeches by responsible official of the Bureau of Environment of OECD or the industry, or panel discussion of the people from every field, to deepen the understandings of the people about the significance of economic instruments and subjects.
In June, 1996, "Regarding the Utilization of Economic Instruments such as Taxation and Charges in Environmental Policies " was prepared as an initial report. In this report, [1] basic way of thinking relating to economic instrument was considered as well as the effectiveness and effects of economic instruments was reviewed, with pointing out the examples in OECD, and [2] as for environmental taxes and charges which are utilized most frequently among the economic instruments, the way of thinking was arranged along with the arguing points indicated in the intermediate report (April, 1994) of the Environmental Taxes Research Panel, which is the predecessor of this Research Panel.

3 Purport of preparation of this last report

This report is focused on the utilization of carbon tax as a countermeasure against global warming so that concrete images can be gained for new political methods of taxes and charges.
As for the countermeasures against global warming, among all kinds of those against environmental problems, satisfactory effectiveness cannot be expected only by the traditional regulatory measures. It is considered to have effectiveness to introduce the economic instruments which is supposed to give incentives of countermeasures in wide range of activities. It is true that it remains uncertainty of the effects and casual sequences of global warming problems, and we tend to be unaware of the long-term effects of normal social and economic activities on the environment. However, once the effects occur, it can cause tremendous and wide range of damages, and in the latest review of scientific opinions by IPCC, it has already been confirmed that the global warming has begun.
The global warming is the subject which we have to tackle today, and the explanation that it has nothing to do with us does not make an excuse any more. It is required that emission control of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, should be proceeded actively with heightening the possibility of implementation of countermeasures.
In December, 1997, COP3 to the "United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change" will be held in the ancient capital of Kyoto.
The existing rule of the above agreement that carbon dioxide emission in the developed countries should be stabilized at the level of 1990 in 2000 is not sufficient, and it is expected to adopt the protocol and others which provide the countermeasures the developed countries should take after 2000 in this conference.
Therefore it will be the important conference that it is not too much to say that it can decide the future of the human being. We, the host country of this conference, have to welcome this conference, with strengthening much more to tackle with the measures to prevent global warming, and through taking the active leadership, we have to make effort in having the fruitful conference.
Based on the above situation, we have decided to make concrete proposition in the Research Panel about the utilization of economic instruments, such as environmental taxes, with especially considering the prevention of global warming and taking account into the results of the research up to now.
In this report, in the first place, the latest situation and effects of environmental taxes in foreign countries, mainly aimed at prevention of global warming are introduced.
Then, concrete designing and effects of carbon tax or carbon / energy tax is considered, and additionally concrete option ideas of introducible carbon tax is proposed.
Rights and wrongs of introduction of environmental taxes, especially for those to prevent global warming is arousing interests from various fields, full-scale discussion among people concerned of wide range of fields on the common basis has not conducted yet. We hope that this report will be utilized as a basis for discussion and that the understanding of the people about the economic instruments will be deepened.

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