10 January 2009

CO2 emissions-cut goal under debate

Takeshi Kosaka and Keiko Katayama, The Yomiuri Shimbun in Asia News Network, 08-01-2009

International negotiations over a framework for cutting greenhouse gas emissions that will replace the Kyoto Protocol are set to enter their final stage in the run-up to the deadline for the talks in December.

The Kyoto Protocol covers the period from 2008 to 2012. To create a new framework that would go into effect in 2013, industrialised countries have presented their respective midterm emission cuts goals, the target years of which range from 2020 to 2030.

The government began full-fledged debates on the issue by establishing a committee to discuss its mid-term emissions-cut goal last autumn. The commission is chaired by former Bank of Japan governor Toshihiko Fukui.

But it is unknown if consensus can be reached between panel members who call for setting higher reduction goals to better protect the environment and those who fear ambitious reduction targets would adversely affect the economy.

On December 18, the committee held its second meeting in the basement hall of the Cabinet Office. At the meeting, Yoichi Kaya, deputy director general of the Research Institute of Innovative technology for the Earth, a foundation under the jurisdiction of the economy, trade and industry ministry, said, "I don't understand why a UN panel is discussing a scenario for 25 per cent to 40 per cent (emissions reduction targets)."

That range of figures was presented in 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which comprises scientists from all over the world. The IPCC proposed a scenario in which industrialised countries would cut emissions by 25 per cent to 40 per cent from the 1990 level by 2020.

Kaya questioned whether Japan will need to set its target at 25 per cent to 40 per cent as its midterm goal.

"Even in the IPCC, these figures have not been fully discussed. It was a goal set under very special conditions," he said.

But Hironori Hamanaka, chairman of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies--a foundation under the jurisdiction of the environment ministry--said: "It's possible that the range of 25 per cent to 40 per cent will be considered in upcoming  negotiations. We should see (the range) as an option."

The government will decide what the nation's midterm numerical emissions reduction goal will be. The committee is only in charge of presenting possible options for the midterm emissionscut goal.

So far, members of the committee have not clearly presented any desirable numerical targets.

But the opinion gap between the two heads of the committee is indicative of the difference in the stances of the two opposing ministries.

The economy, trade and industry ministry is claiming that if industrialised nations cut emissionsby 25 per cent to 40 per cent in total it may become difficult for the United States to join the new scheme because it will face difficulty obtaining approval from the Senate.

The environment ministry insists that the range of figures is justified scientifically and therefore is appropriate.

The opinion gap also stems from a difference of policies between the two ministries.

The economy ministry wants to ensure growth of the economy by securing a stable energy supply. The environment ministry aims to raise taxes and toughen other regulations on the use of fossil fuel as anti-global warming measures.

Numerical emissions reduction goals proposed by committee members during the meeting varied widely, ranging from zero to 40 per cent.

At the committee's first meeting in November, some members mentioned the need to bridge the opinion gap between the two opposing sides in the committee.

"It's important we recognise that environment advocates should be more realistic about economics, and those who place importance on the energy (economy) should attempt to better understand environmentally conscious ideas," one committee member said.

However, there have been no signs of a compromise. The committee will hold four or five more meetings to discuss the costs of the emission cuts and the impact of the cuts on the economy.

Though it has not been decided when the government will set its midterm emissions goal, a UN special panel over the issue will discuss how much emissions should be cut by industrialised nations in total at its meeting, which will start in late March in Bonn, Germany.

"For Japan to play a leading role on the issue, setting the midterm goal is necessary. The government will show its direction by the end of March," said environment minister Tetsuo Saito.


Read more... Sphere: Related Content

No comments: