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Global climate initiative hinges on China, U.S.

Source:  Copyright 2007, Yomiuri Shimbun
Date:  May 29, 2007
Byline:  Editorial
Original URL: Status DEAD

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday the government's basic policy for an international framework to succeed the Kyoto Protocol to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The policy should serve as a starting point to create a post-Kyoto Protocol framework to combat global warming, a cause that must involve every member of the international community.

The Kyoto Protocol calls for lowering overall emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 5 percent below 1990 levels in the commitment period of 2008 to 2012.

The policy illustrates Japan's view of the shape of the post-Kyoto Protocol international framework. Abe is expected to discuss his initiative at the summit meeting of the Group of Eight major nations next month in Germany.

The Kyoto Protocol stipulates country-by-country numerical targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Japan's new initiative is aimed at obtaining agreements from other countries to work toward a unified global target, and then to discuss how to meet this goal.

The main objective of the policy announced by Abe is to halve emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the current level by 2050. With this figure as the common global target, Abe argued that technological developments and other efforts should be made to ensure any reduction of greenhouse gas emissions does not impinge on economic growth.

The United States - the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases - steadfastly refuses to ratify the protocol. China, which is expected to surpass the United States eventually as the largest emitter of such gases, is not obliged to reduce its gas emissions under the protocol.

Given these circumstances, Abe's latest proposals are worth following up. To ensure the new framework is effective, the participation of the United States and China is essential.

The European Union has its own numerical target to reduce greenhouse gasses by more than 20 percent of the 1990 level by 2020.

Abe's ultimate objective is "a flexible and diversified framework that takes the situation of each country into consideration." To form this framework, whether to set country-by-country numerical targets will need to be discussed. Japan may have to tread carefully should a row flare up between the European Union and the United States and China.

Three working groups under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently announced their own reports. The reports said the planet would steadily heat up over the next 100 years and predicted Earth's average temperature could rise by up to 6.4 C by the end of this century if the world's thirst for fossil fuels continues unabated.

Despite this gloomy prediction, the reports offered a ray of hope: Global warming can be halted if appropriate measures are taken in time. The reports urged each country to tackle the issue.

Abe also said the government is ready to extend technological and financial assistance to developing countries that actively take steps to deal with global warming.

Japan's energy-saving technologies are top-shelf. They will certainly be a significant tool to help combat global warming.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan is required to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent from the 1990 level. But in 2005, these emissions increased by 8.1 percent. The rise in emissions caused by office buildings and homes reportedly was particularly noticeable. Getting people to cooperate by making small efforts, such as setting the temperature on air conditioners a few degrees higher in summer, is crucial.

Japan will only be able to persuade other countries to sign on to the new initiative when its own people do their best to help the cause.

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