Japan Manufacturers Fear New Emissions Targets

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese manufacturers warned Wednesday that the government's new target for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Japan could weaken their international competitiveness and force them to accelerate the shift of operations overseas.

The new target will require manufacturers to make huge capital investments, including the construction of new nuclear and wind power plants, they said.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Taro Aso said Japan will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, vowing to lead international efforts to fight global warming.

As the target will unavoidably cause a sharp increase in energy costs, the Federation of Electric Power Companies said utility and other related charges will rise up to 180,000 yen per household each year.

Steelmakers, paper pulp producers and other energy-intensive manufacturers are particularly worried about the effects of the new target.

If production costs rise as a result of higher energy bills, "We will have to consider moving our plants overseas," said an official at one such manufacturer.

But makers of electronic office equipment and automobiles expect the new target to increase opportunities for the promotion of energy-efficient products such as hybrid motor vehicles.

In either case, the reduction target will likely prompt Japanese companies to strive harder for the development of energy-saving technologies at a time when manufacturers worldwide are already promoting investment to address the increasing global trend toward clean air requirements.

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