Renewable Energy Research in Focus in New Japanese Budget

As expected, Japan's new government announced yesterday it is ordering ministries to rethink the 2010 budget requests they submitted on 28 August—a process that could have an impact on science-related spending. New requests, due 15 October, are expected to reflect the policies of the Democratic Party, which won a 30 August election and took power on 16 September. The biggest changes are likely to be in expanded social services and cutbacks in public works projects. But the Democratic Party's campaign platform also called for developing renewable energy technologies and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.  

In speeches before the United Nations in New York and at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last week, Yukio Hatoyama, the new prime minister, said Japan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from 1990 levels by 2020, provided other countries also commit to reductions. Hatoyama mentioned a domestic emissions trading scheme and incentives for renewable energy sources. But an official at Japan's Ministry of Education, who did not want to be identified, says the governmental R&D budget will likely be affected by the new Administration’s interest in making Japan a low-carbon society, "To what extent will be worked out starting now," the official adds. The budget takes effect next 1 April. 

The new government is also taking a second look at a plan, funded under a supplemental budget adopted last May, that promises $90 million over 5 years to each of 30 research groups. The outgoing Liberal Democratic Party Administration pushed though the selection of those 30 groups after losing the election, prompting complaints of a lack of transparency and fairness in the selection process. The Ministry of Education is sitting on the funds until the new administration decides what to do.