Japan calls for 50% reduction in emissions by 2050

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, unveiled ambitious plans the other day to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 that would include the world’s biggest emitters, the US and China.

“There is only one earth, and there are no national boundaries for the air,” said Mr Abe, who will put the proposals up for discussion at next month’s G8 summit in Germany.

“Even the most outstanding strategy would be meaningless unless all people living on earth participate in it. If the framework required economic growth to be sacrificed, we cannot expect many countries to participate.

We must create a new framework which moves beyond the Kyoto protocol, in which the entire world will participate in emissions reduction.”

The 1997 protocol commits industrialised nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5% from 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. The US withdrew from the agreement, however, and has said it will continue to oppose any proposals that it believes will harm its economy.

Discussion on a post-Kyoto agreement is expected to dominate talks at the G8 meeting, with countries divided on whether they should be bound by mandatory numerical targets, an approach favoured by the EU.

Japan, which will host next year’s summit, is concerned that an insistence on numerical targets will discourage the US from signing up any agreement, particularly if other big emitters, such as India and China, continue to be exempted.

Today officials in Tokyo were quick to stress that Mr Abe’s “Cool Earth 50” proposals were part of a non-binding “vision” for dealing with climate change.

“When we talk about 2050 … we do not have sufficient scientific knowledge to be concrete and precise in identifying a goal,” Koji Tsuruoka, the director general of global issues at the foreign ministry, told reporters.

“It is going to be a vision that could be shared as a target that could be accepted … by all the countries of the world.”

Earlier this week the Japanese foreign minister, Taro Aso, said that persuading China, India and developing economies to do more to cut emissions was more important than establishing targets.

“I think opinion is divided on whether it is easier to participate by setting a numerical target or whether it is easier without it,” he said. “We need to make sure that major emitter nations will take part.”

The British foreign minister, Margaret Beckett, said on a visit to Tokyo this week that it was unlikely the G8 countries would agree to numerical targets in Germany and made a point of praising the US and China for recent attempts to reduce their carbon footprint.

Japan, meanwhile, appears likely to fall short of its Kyoto target of a 6% reduction. Despite improvements in energy efficiency, its greenhouse gas emissions as of March last year were 14% higher than in 1990.

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