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
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.