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Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009

Japan says China cuts must be binding

Staff writer

COPENHAGEN — Japan's pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions continues to hinge on whether China and other major developing economies make legally binding reduction commitments, and Beijing's current negotiating stance does not meet that condition, according to Japanese delegates at the U.N. Climate Change Conference.

"We have to bring China into the fold," a Foreign Ministry official involved with the negotiations said. "They're still on the outside with their insistence their plan to cut emissions per unit of gross domestic product by up to 45 percent by 2020 is voluntary. But it can't be just voluntary,"

The official added Japan continues to have questions about the details of the Chinese pledge, especially whether it is verifiable and measurable, and that it doesn't end up increasing greenhouse gases.

"Well, it's the opening day of the conference, so everybody is just stating their previous positions. The Kyoto Protocol conference in 1997 also went down to the wire and wasn't decided until the last minute. So I would not be surprised if that's the case here," Mitsutoshi Hayakawa, managing director of the Osaka-based NGO Citizens Alliance for Saving the Atmosphere and the Earth, said Monday evening at a news conference sponsored by Kiko Network, a coalition of numerous environmental NGOs.

Kiko Network representatives said two NGO members have been included in the Japanese government delegation for the climate talks.

Kimiko Hirata, director of Kiko Network, and Naoyuki Yamagishi, climate change program leader of WWF Japan, will participate in the discussions. Although countries often include NGOs in their official delegations to U.N. talks, it's quite rare for Japan to do so.

While Japan expressed concern about the Chinese plan and whether it is ambitious enough, some NGOs wondered why officials remained silent on developed countries whose announced targets are not within a 25 percent to 40 percent reduction by 2020 based on 1990 levels, which is what climatologists and the United Nations say is needed to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Japan has pledged a 25 percent cut from 1990 levels.

"The Japanese delegation isn't criticizing America's plan to reduce emissions only 17 percent compared with 2005 levels," said Yurika Ayukawa of Greenpeace International.

The U.S. plan did receive criticism from the European Union, though, which said both China and the U.S. need to do more.

Echoing the Japanese viewpoint on China, Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, representing the EU at a press conference, said China needs to ensure other delegates that its plan to reduce emissions won't end up actually putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

"As for the Americans, I think (U.S. President Barack) Obama can do more. He talked about reductions within the range of 17 percent, so I think there is room for improvement," Carlgren said.

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