Japan Struggles to Meet Kyoto Goals
Tuesday, June 5, 2007; 12:43 PM
TOKYO -- Japan is trying to take the lead on climate change at this week's G-8 summit, but the world's second-largest economy is falling behind on its existing obligations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the global agreement known as the Kyoto Protocol, Japan pledged to reduce its emissions to 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Instead, emissions rose 8.1 percent by 2005, the Environment Ministry says. Now, Japan needs to achieve a cut of about 14 percent just to meet the 2012 goal.
"Rather than moving closer to the target, we are emitting more," said Koji Tsuruoka, the Foreign Ministry's director general for global issues and point man for climate change.
The government is calling for a new global warming pact to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, under which 35 industrialized nations agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a combined 5 percent by 2012. The United States, the world's top emitter of such gases, and Australia have rejected the Kyoto agreement, saying it would hurt their economies.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed a 50 percent reduction in global emissions by 2050, although he did not set a base year. Japanese officials hope Abe's proposal will earn Japan a central role in designing a post-Kyoto pact, a topic expected to be high on the agenda of the summit of the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized countries in Germany this week.
"We hope to show the rest of the world Japan's traditional wisdom of living in harmony with nature as well as our environmental energy technology," Environment Minister Masatoshi Wakabayashi said after the Cabinet endorsed the plan last week.
But Japan has some work to do at home first.
While Japanese industry cut carbon dioxide emissions 3.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2005, household emissions were up 37.4 percent and transportation emissions rose 18.1 percent, the government said.
Japan is hardly alone. Canada's emissions were 26.6 percent higher in 2004 than in 1990, the Environment Ministry said. But Germany's emissions fell 17.5 percent in the same period.
Japanese officials say they will soon announce a new plan to meet their Kyoto commitment. A research panel has identified those sectors most in need of emissions reductions and is laying out possible steps, such as new technology and conservation.
"We have no hesitation to say that Japan will achieve what we have committed to," Tsuruoka said. "In the past it has always been true. We have no reason to doubt our capability of doing this also this time."
The latest high-speed "bullet train," due to come into service on July 1, runs on 19 percent less energy than earlier models, while boosting engine power by 30 percent.