By NATSUKO FUKUE

Local assembly members and citizens’ groups on Saturday launched a new political party, Midori no To (Greens Japan), looking to harness public opposition to nuclear power following the Fukushima catastrophe.

The new entity, which has yet to meet the legal requirements to be officially registered as a political party, is preparing to field 10 candidates in the Upper House election scheduled for next summer.

Its core policy is to substantially increase the use of renewable energy sources to end Japan’s dependence on nuclear power and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“We need to change the nation’s industry and its reliance on atomic energy,” Hitoshi Nakayama, a Niigata municipal assemblyman and one of the party’s four central members, said at a news conference in Tokyo.

“I hope we can become a party that reflects the public’s desire to abolish nuclear power,” said Nao Suguro, another key figure and a member of the Suginami Ward Assembly in Tokyo.

The party also opposes the export of nuclear power technology and Japan’s possible entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations — policies Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda argues are crucial to generate economic growth.

If Noda dissolves the Lower House and calls a snap election this summer, Suguro said the party will field a candidate for the Tokyo proportional representation bloc. Nakayama explained that a lack of funding would prevent it from recruiting additional candidates.

Several environmental organizations merged to form larger entities in recent years and the party’s predecessor, Midori no Mirai, was founded in 2008.

The number of its predecessor group’s members has doubled to about 1,000 since the start of the Fukushima nuclear crisis last year.

The first parties to campaign predominantly on environmental issues are believed to be the United Tasmania Group, which fought in an Australian state election in April 1972, and the Values Party of New Zealand, which contested a general election that November.

Since then, the global environmental movement has grown exponentially and green parties have been created in nearly 90 countries, most notably in Germany, where the Greens are a major political force and participated in successive ruling coalitions from 1998 to 2005.

07/30/2012 – 11:26

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