Abe Appoints New Environment Minister in Japan Cabinet Change

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed a former television broadcaster to the position of environment minister in a broader cabinet reorganization as the premier seeks to revive the world’s third-largest economy.

Tamayo Marukawa, 44, takes over from Yoshio Mochizuki. Marukawa, who graduated from the University of Tokyo, was elected to Japan’s Diet in 2007. Her most recent role prior to selection as environment minister was as chairwoman of the House of Councillors’ Committee on Health, Welfare and Labour.

Marukawa, who worked as an announcer at TV Asahi before entering politics, becomes the public face for Japan as the nation prepares to attend United Nations-backed climate talks in Paris later this year. Japan’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by 26 percent by 2030 from 2013 levels has been criticized by environmental groups as too timid and statistically unsound.

Adopting 2013 as a starting point is contentious because it’s a year when Japan recorded its second-highest emissions level ever as it burned more fossil fuels to replace nuclear power lost after the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

In recent months, the former environment minister, Mochizuki, began pushing back at plans proposed by some of the nation’s largest utilities to build new coal-fired power plants, saying the projects may threaten Japan’s efforts to cut emissions.

The country’s regional power utilities burned the most coal on record in August. Meanwhile, coal consumption has increased 19 percent between 2010 and 2014, largely due to the March 2011 Fukushima disaster.

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