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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Saito defends midterm plan for greenhouse gas reduction


Staff writer

Environment Minister Tetsuo Saito defended Japan's plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, saying Wednesday they were scientifically valid and the economic benefits of a new low-carbon society the government is aiming for will eventually outweigh any financial burdens incurred.

"I believe Japan's decision on midterm greenhouse gas reduction targets does not by any means run counter to the scientific requirements set forth by the IPCC. It's duly within the considerations they presented," Saito told a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Taro Aso announced Japan would seek to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent of 2005 levels by 2020. The decision was immediately criticized by Japanese and international nongovernment organizations as insufficient.

At a meeting in Bonn earlier this month, Yvo de Boer, general secretary of the U.N. Convention on Climate Change, said he was speechless after hearing Aso's announcement, noting pledges so far from industrial countries like Japan fell far short of the 25 percent to 40 percent in greenhouse gas reductions, based on 1990's levels, that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading body of scientists studying the issue, says are necessary to prevent climate catastrophes from occurring in the coming decades.

The leaders of the Group of 77 developing countries also used the Bonn conference to criticize not only Japan, but also other industrialized countries for adopting midterm reduction targets they said were scientifically invalid.

Quantified targets from developed countries will form the basis of an international agreement on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions between 2013 and 2020, when a U.N. meeting on climate change to replace the Kyoto Protocol convenes in Copenhagen this December.

"As we approach Copenhagen, it's extremely critical to engage America, China, and India and to show leadership so they participate in a new agreement. It's absolutely critical for the U.S. to join, and so we had a coordinated approach with the U.S. (in setting our midterm targets)", Saito said.

The U.S. is looking at a 14 percent cut from 2005 levels. The European Union has announced at least a 20 percent cut as compared with 1990.

At the same time, the minister had pushed for a higher target than many, especially in industries deemed major polluters, originally wanted.

After Aso's announcement, major business organizations, led by the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) and The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, warned that meeting the goal of reducing emissions by 15 percent by 2020 by switching to a society based less on carbon will be quite expensive. Steel mills and coal and gas-burning power stations accounted for the majority of Japan's greenhouse gas emissions in fiscal 2007.



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