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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 May 21 - 27  > Japan comes under fire at G8 environment ministers’ meeting
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2008 May 21 - 27 TOP3 [ENVIRONMENT]

Japan comes under fire at G8 environment ministers’ meeting

May 27, 2008
Group of Eight environment ministers ended a three-day meeting on May 26 in Kobe without Japan putting forward any effective plan to take measures against global warming.

Group of Eight environment ministers ended a three-day meeting on May 26 in Kobe without Japan putting forward any effective plan to take measures against global warming.

They failed to come up with any major breakthrough in the run-up to the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit in July or to the conclusion of a new international framework that replaces the Kyoto Protocol which will expire in 2012.

Criticism of Japan’s inertia was strong throughout the discussions. It was easy for everyone to predict how difficult it would be for Japan to steer the upcoming G8 summit this summer.

Japan wants to evade its responsibilities

On the eve of the May 25 discussion on global warming issues, a German official pointed out that a sector-specific approach or a long-term goal could not substitute for a compulsory mid-term goal. He emphasized that the set goal of limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industry temperatures will not be achieved unless the industrialized countries agree to a mid-term goal of cutting emissions by 25-40 percent from the 1990 levels.

The remark can be taken as criticism of Japan’s attempt to force other countries to agree to a sector-specific approach and long-term goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions as an “achievement” of the upcoming G8 Summit.

In the keynote speech, Japanese Environment Minister Kamoshita Ichiro said nothing about the need to establish a mid-term goal although Japan was called to do so. He instead stated details only about measures relating to developing countries.

The Kamoshita speech made clear that the upcoming G8 Summit’s achievement should be to agree to share the long-term goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and that the developing countries as well as the industrialized countries are called upon to make due efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This was how he tried to evade Japan’s immediate responsibilities.

Unclear goals, either long or short

At the news conference on May 25, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer stressed setting a mid-term target as essential for effectively cut greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the chairman’s summary announced at the end of the ministerial meeting just stated, "For mid-term reduction targets, the important issue is how to take the IPCC knowledge into consideration to come up with a viable target.” He thus evaded mentioning the need for a mid-term target.

At the press conference after the session, Kamoshita stated that the mid-term target is a matter to be dealt with through international negotiations and that it is too early for Japan to propose a mid-term target at this stage.

Matthias Machnig, Germany’s vice environment minister, disagreed. He said that the setting of a mid-term mandate goal is the key to reaching a new post-Kyoto Protocol treaty starting from 2013.

Japan’s proposal brought chaos at Kobe

A sector-specific approach to slash emissions, which Japan sticks to, brought in more confusion to the international discussion. Japan’s proposal was supported by representatives of only two organizations, the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) and the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who made presentations at the May 24 session.

In the ministerial meeting, Japan was urged to explain its position on this question.

The sector-specific approach proposed by Japan was also criticized by the chairman’s summary for not taking the lead by announcing its own national targets in line with the IPCC recommendations.

It also stated that the gap between Japan’s proposals, the bottom-up approach and the top-down approach, must be narrowed.

This actually means that Japan’s proposal for a sector-specific approach is not sufficient to effectively achieve the target of cutting gas emissions.
- Akahata, May 27, 2008
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