Abe aims to halve gas emissions by 2050

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, on Thursday unveiled an initiative to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as part of a long-term programme to mitigate climate change after 2013, following the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol.

“We must create a new framework which moves beyond the Kyoto Protocol, in which the entire world will participate in emissions reduction,” Mr Abe said at a conference on Asia’s future in Tokyo.

The Japanese proposal, dubbed “Cool Earth 50”, will be presented next month at the Group of Eight summit in Heligendamm, Germany, where climate change is expected to be one of the most important issues for discussion.

It comes as the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that carbon dioxide emissions should at least be halved by 2050 to stop the earth from heating up more than 2 degrees C.

Japan is also proposing further aid to help developing countries to both reduce greenhouse emissions and achieve economic growth in a compatible way, although it did not quantify how much it might be willing to put up. “It is our intention to provide such assistance to the developing countries which stand ready to co-ordinate their policies actively in response to Japan’s proposals,” Mr Abe said.

The Japanese government describes the new aid, which will be separate from Japan’s overseas development aid, as “a new financial mechanism . . . with substantial size of funds for relatively long-term.”

The Japanese proposal to halve greenhouse gases is a non-binding agreement, reflecting the government’s view that the Kyoto Protocol was hampered by its strict targets and binding nature, which led key countries – particularly the US – to refrain from signing up to it.

The Japanese government is concerned that setting strict targets could once again discourage major greenhouse gas emitters from signing up to a pact.

“Seventy per cent of global emissions is outside (the Kyoto Protocol) so even after the full implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, the reduction will be something like 3 per cent,” Koji Tsuruoka, director-general for global issues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

“We are not trying to tie countries down to a specific position. We are intentionally avoiding citing any particular mechanism or any particular target as the preferred one,” he said.

Japan is also struggling to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for Japan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 6 per cent by 2012. Japan currently emits 14 per cent more greenhouse gases than it did in 1990.

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