Bureaucratic politics at the national and international level: analysing the formulation of the Japanese mid-term greenhouse gas emission reduction target

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Title: Bureaucratic politics at the national and international level: analysing the formulation of the Japanese mid-term greenhouse gas emission reduction target
Author: Luta, Alexandru
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science
Date: 2009-09-07
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/16348
Thesis level: master's thesis
Abstract: Essence, turf, size, influence, morale and autonomy are some of the key factors that influence the struggle between large organizations. Drawing on a long tradition of describing Japanese politics in terms of bureaucratic policy-making, this paper invokes a contemporary example to review the applicability of this theoretical framework in depicting bureaucratic struggle in Japan. The domestic formulation of an emission reduction target for the 2012-2020 interval for the Japanese state serves as this paper s case study. Necessitated by the imminent end of the Kyoto Protocol s first commitment period, designating a new target is seen as imperative given the latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. However, the single target has been framed as the natural policy area of two separate Japanese bureaucracies: the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Environment. Given these two organizations long and documented history of antagonism, conflict over the right to formulate adequate policy became inevitable. Judging merely based on the parameters mentioned above, the better funded, staffed and represented Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry would have been judged to be in the more powerful position and therefore likely to impose terms favourable to its natural client, the Japan Business Federation. Nevertheless, despite having repeatedly rejected from a menu of six different choices all mid-term targets but the least demanding one, the federation was unable to transform its close relationship with its powerful bureaucratic ally into a political success and instead had to settle for a mid-way compromise that would placate also the interests of the weaker Ministry of Environment. This apparent contradiction with the above model of bureaucratic conflict is solved if one considers the proclivity of weaker Japanese organisations to ally themselves with other weak actors in order to overcome a mutual more resourceful opponent. Sometimes weaker players even go beyond the boundaries of the Japanese state in order to outflank their policy adversaries. In this case the Ministry of Environment adopted both strategies, by allying itself with domestic green NGOs and by pointing out Japan s responsibilities within the emerging global regime on climate change. The compromise position it managed to wrest was a direct result of this pro-active strategy. This success can however be characterised only as a partial success. Within the parameters of the model of bureaucratic conflict, the failure of the Ministry of Environment to elicit the adoption of the most progressive mid-term target demonstrates that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the associated developmentalist discourse continue to hold more sway within the Japanese state than the combined resources of the emerging global regime and domestic environmentalists. The case study thus validates and enhanced version of the model one that allows for alliances that transcend the boundaries of the state. The usefulness of this model may however change given the outcome of the August 2009 elections, which may herald a radical transformation in Japanese politics: one that would hand political parties a greater role in policy-making, to the detriment of traditional bureaucratic channels.
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