Good news, potentially, for those of us who've been looking to Japan for more leadership in the lead-up to Copenhagen: today's landslide for the Democratic Party of Japan means that Yukio Hatoyama will be the next prime minister.
Hatoyama is no radical outsider, but he has promised "revolutionary change" and is a strong advocate for the idea that Japan's best hope for the future can be found in building a bright green economy. He has promoted green technology and renewable energy (albeit with a regrettably heavy focus on nuclear power), talked about making Japan's cities more livable and, perhaps most importantly, has pledged real action on climate change: a 25 percent cut in Japan's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (below 1990 levels).
Though he has also pledged to cut the gas tax and highway tolls, that target puts Japan near the forefront of the climate debate. "I want Japan, as a leading technological power, to show more leadership," Hatoyama says.
As someone who once worked as an environmental journalist in Japan, I can say that Hatoyama's election is pretty thrilling. While there are huge structural and cultural barriers to progress on climate and other environmental issues, the Japanese also have enormous innovative capacities that the world needs brought to bear on sustainability challenges. A Japan committed to transforming itself into a bright green powerhouse is good news for us all.
Wondering what you/others think: a seemingly lost thread to the green economy is revaluing the economy (see my blog post on the topic on URL listed above) in a communal way-- how does this work in Japan if collectivity is taken up by business context only and societal trends are increasingly individualistic? i.e. increasing feelings amongst youth of alienation from society (re: hikikomori) & fewer women get married and the family unit is less unitary?