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Japan Proposes Halving Emissions By 2050

In the latest initiative - dubbed "Cool Earth 50" by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe - all nations would commit in general terms to the broad goal of 50 percent cuts by 2050 through technology and social change. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Shaun Tandon
Tokyo (AFP) May 24, 2007
Japan called Thursday for the world to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, proposing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol it hopes will win over top offenders the United States and China. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, unveiling the proposal ahead of the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Germany, pledged to bring all nations onboard in the fight against global warming by making the post-Kyoto framework non-binding.

Abe also called for Japan and other nations to direct foreign aid to help poor nations embrace low emission technology including, potentially controversially, nuclear power.

"Now is the time we must act. Otherwise how could we hold ourselves accountable to our future generations?" Abe said, calling evidence of global warming irrefutable.

"Japan will vigorously call on countries around the world to reach an international consensus on the long-term goal of halving emissions by 2050 and the steps for achieving it," Abe told a forum in Tokyo of Asian leaders on the continent's future.

The Kyoto Protocol, the world's first treaty mandating emission cuts, expires in 2012.

The United States and Australia have refused to take part in the treaty, arguing it is unfair as it makes no demands of fast-growing emerging economies such as China, which is set to overtake the US as the top emitter.

In the latest initiative -- which Abe dubbed "Cool Earth 50" -- all nations would commit in general terms to the broad goal of 50 percent cuts by 2050 through technology and social change.

Japan has tried to take a high profile in the fight against climate change in line with its aspirations for greater global clout. The Kyoto Protocol is named after Japan's ancient capital, where it was negotiated in 1997.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, host of the June 6-8 G8 summit in the resort of Heiligendamm, has also pushed for action against global warming but questioned the US commitment.

"As the G8 we must come to a common understanding on how we can fight climate change. But as I stand here today, I am not sure that we will manage this in Heiligendamm," she said in parliament.

Japanese officials acknowledged their proposal was similar to one already on the table from Germany, which also calls for 50 percent cuts by 2050.

Japan, which hosts next year's G8 summit, said its plan was different in that it left ambiguous the base year for the reductions, while the German proposal compares output with 1990 levels.

Koji Tsuruoka, director general for global affairs at the foreign ministry, told reporters that Japan was calling for cuts from "the current level," with leeway of a few years.

He said the imprecision was deliberate.

"We do not have the scientific evidence to be very precise today," Tsuruoka said.

Another binding numerical commitment "is just not going to work. I think we've learned that. The question is how do we break through this gridlock?"

Under Kyoto, rich nations are required to slash greenhouse gas emissions by an average of five percent between 2008 and 2012 compared with 1990 levels.

Abe said that Japan's principle was that "all major emitters must participate," naming the United States, China and India, the fifth-largest emitter.

"The framework must be flexible and diverse, taking into consideration the circumstances of each country," he said.

Japan, despite its advocacy of the Kyoto Protocol, is well behind in meeting its own obligations as its economy is enjoying its longest post-World War II expansion in a recovery from recession in the 1990s.

Abe said he will launch a domestic initiative under the slogan of reducing emissions "one person, one day, one kilogram."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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