The Japanese government is misleading the public by presenting biased figures on Japan's 2020 target for emission cuts, WWF said ahead of the country's last public hearing on the issue.
The global conservation organisation also points out that the government's position wrongly focuses on potential burdens for households, while ignoring the financial benefits of a low carbon future.
'Japan pretends to aim at ambition levels and emission cuts similar to those in the EU and US, but the method applied to compare efforts by different countries is misleading,' says Kim Carstensen, Leader of the WWF Global Climate Initiative.
'Ill-informed Japanese citizens are at risk of being talked into a high emission future - bad for the people, bad for the economy, and bad for nature.'
The target options currently debated range from an increase of 4% to a decrease of 25% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. The Aso government says the weakest option, +4% by 2020, is comparable to the EU's goal of cutting emissions 20% by 2020, as well as to the US goal of returning to 1990 levels by 2020.
According to WWF, this is a case of serious public misinformation.
The method applied by the Japanese government is biased, because 'Marginal Abatement Costs' - the extra costs a country must incur to reduce one more unit of pollution - are used as the sole indicator to compare country efforts, while other more important indicators such as ability to pay and historical responsibility are completely ignored.
'To create cost curves for marginal abatement you need detailed country data, and different organisations release different cost curves, so the government's cost curve is neither an objective indicator nor the ultimate truth,' says Carstensen. 'Picking just one indicator which is also advantageous for Japan and presenting it as if it was the only indicator to assess comparability is misleading.'
The government's announcement about economic consequences related to the various target options is also distorted. Targets such as -15% or -25% are described as a heavy burden for households, highlighting only estimated decreases in job numbers, income levels and GDP growth. Positive economic effects of strong targets and the opportunity to create green jobs are concealed.
'While countries such as Australia are raising the ambition level, Japan proposes smaller efforts to tackle climate change, frozen in fear of economic burden while not seeing the benefits of a low carbon future,' said Carstensen. 'Instead of depressing citizens with loss and decline messages, the Aso government must go for a strong target to leave future generations a safe environment.'
In WWF's view, a responsible and capable country like Japan must contribute its fair share to the global effort and aim at emission cuts of 25% to 40% by 2020, as shown by the IPCC. If Japan were to choose a weak target, it would seriously discourage efforts by other countries, resulting in a major blow for international hopes to agree a new global climate treaty this year.
The Japanese government announced the six target options on 27 March. After the announcement, the government has held five public hearings in major cities across the country. The sixth and last hearing is held today in Tokyo. In parallel, the government is calling for public comments on the proposed target options until 16 May. Taking into account the results of these processes and internal discussion within the government, Prime Minister Aso is expected to announce his final decision on the mid-term target sometime in June.