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Friday, June 27, 2008

U.K. climate-change envoy pitches 'low-carbon society'

Staff writer

Failing to respond effectively to global warming would be tantamount to taking away public security and prosperity, a British envoy for climate change issues said Thursday in Tokyo.

Urging countries to shift to "low-carbon societies," U.K special representative John Ashton stressed that global warming and its macroeconomic effects have led to shortfalls in resources, including fossil fuels and food.

Making a society less dependent on fossil fuel may be costly, but "there are opportunities" providing incentives for countries to proceed with the change, he said during a speech at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

Part of Ashton's pitch is accelerating technologies to commercialize carbon capture and storage methods, which would gather greenhouse gases and bury them underground instead of releasing them into the atmosphere.

"There are competitive advantages by being ahead of the game when it comes to reducing carbon emissions," he said.

Turning to Japan's efforts on global warming, Ashton said he would welcome further debate to generate "a sense of urgency" at the domestic level, but overall he commends the commitment shown so far.

On June 9, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda announced a climate policy package that pledges to cut domestic carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent to 80 percent by 2050. Fukuda did not propose a medium-term target set for 2020.

Ashton described the so-called Fukuda Vision as "enormously positive" for its level of ambition, because it includes a test run at trading in greenhouse gas emissions starting this fall.

"We will not be able to build the urgency we need simply on the basis of a bottom-up approach," he said, welcoming Japan's move to force its industrial sectors to take immediate action by introducing the emissions-trading scheme.

On next month's G8 summit, Ashton warned "not to expect too much," but he is pleased the member nations will be discussing global issues with other major carbon-gas emitters to build a sense of common purpose. Industrialized nations must be in a "follow-me mode" and have the confidence to lead on the issue, instead of waiting for countries such as China and India to concur on an agreement, he said.

Appointed to his position in June 2006, Ashton has coordinated with ministers to respond to international climate change issues. He was in Tokyo after attending a meeting of the Group of Eight nations, EU and eight other major carbon emitters in Seoul.

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The Japan Times

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