Japanese PM pledges strong climate change initiative, Coronavirus containment in 1st policy speech

Yoshihide Suga NYK Daily

On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made a number of pledges during the delivery of his first policy speech in parliament since taking office last month, with one of his priorities being to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Japan to net zero by 2050.

In his address at the start of the 41-day extraordinary Diet session through Dec. 5, Suga said that his immediate focus was the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely impacted the nation’s now recession-hit economy which has worsened to levels not seen since before the war.

“The nationwide spread of infection has been declining since late June. But at the moment, this trend is slowing and the situation remains unpredictable,” the 71-year-old leader said.

“We will do everything to prevent an explosive increase in infections and protect people’s health and lives. We will also resume social and economic activities and revitalize the economy,” he added.

Suga went on to say that the government will make sure that it secures enough vaccines for all people in Japan, once their safety has been confirmed pending clinical trials and regulatory approval, in the first half of next year.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party-led (LDP) coalition aims to pass legislation to secure COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the Diet session.

On climate change and Suga’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, compared to the previous administration’s plans to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050, he said that proactive measures and a change of mindset were necessary.

“We need to change our mindset that proactively taking measures against global warming will bring about changes to industrial structures, as well as the economy and society, and lead to major growth,” the Japanese prime minister said.

He went on to say this could be achieved by the enhanced use of renewable and nuclear energy.

On issues of foreign affairs, Suga said he aimed to lessen the U.S. base hosting burdens on Okinawa’s people in Japan’s southernmost prefecture.

Okinawa hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, yet the tiny sub-tropical island accounts for just a small fraction of Japan’s total landmass.

While shouldering the majority of U.S. bases and being victims of U.S. base-linked workers’ criminal activities, as well as facing a steady flow of accidents and mishaps involving U.S. military aircraft, Okinawans are facing the construction of a new U.S. replacement military base at a too delicate ecosystem unique to Okinawa that the locals desperately want to protect.

In terms of the nation’s closest neighbors, the Japanese leader said that stability looking ahead would be of great importance.

A stable relationship with China, as well as with South Korea, is “very important,” Japan’s prime minister stated.

He went on to say that Tokyo would continue to develop ties with Moscow, with the hope of signing a postwar peace treaty and settling a territorial dispute.

In his much-talked-about plans for setting up a digital agency, he said that it was paramount to eliminate administrative sectionalism and push forward government functions’ digitalization.

As for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games, which were postponed due to the virus’s outbreak, Suga said he is “determined” to hold the global sporting event next summer

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