PUSH AGAINST HEALTH DEGRADATION

G8 draft calls for Kyoto pact progress

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The Group of Eight major countries should seek an early effectuation of the Kyoto Protocol on curbing global warming and also “break with the unsustainable development patterns” of the 20th century, according to a draft communique to be issued by the G8 environmental summit this month.

The draft communique, obtained Saturday by The Japan Times, also says that the G8 countries will strive harder to protect the health of human beings, especially children, pregnant women and the elderly from the effects of pollution and other forms of environmental degradation.

The G8 environmental ministers will meet in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture for three days starting Friday. Their discussions will center on three key themes: climate change; sustainable development in the 21st century; the environment and health.

The communique to be issued by the environmental ministers will be reported to the top G8 leaders meeting in Okinawa Prefecture in late July for their annual summit. The G8 comprises the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia.

The draft communique of the G8 environmental summit says, “As we stand on the threshold of a new millennium, environmental degradation is still increasing and natural resources are being depleted, threatening the foundation of our life and that of future generations.

“In the 21st century, things must change,” says the draft, which is written in English. “We perceive a vital need to take the lead to achieve sustainable development, demonstrating political leadership as we provide models for the global community.”

The draft communique specifically stresses the need to combat climate change, which it describes as “an unprecedented challenge and critical environmental issue facing humankind.”

“The world has experienced severe and unusual weather,” it says, noting that temperatures in the 1990s ranked among the highest on record and that many parts of the world experienced unusually severe droughts, floods and storms during the past decade.

The draft calls for a successful completion of COP6 for an early effectuation of the Kyoto Protocol. “We confirm our commitment to reach agreements at COP6 in order to make the Kyoto Protocol ratifiable and ensure the early entry into force of the Protocol.”

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at COP3 — the third Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — in Kyoto at the end of 1997. The U.N. convention was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. COP6 will be held in The Hague in November.

The Kyoto Protocol sets legally binding targets for industrialized countries to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and some other greenhouse gases that are widely blamed for global warming, by a total of 5.2 percent between 2008 and 2012 from the 1990 levels.

It specifically requires Japan, the United States and the 15-nation European Union to cut their emissions of such gases by 6 percent, 7 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

At COP3, delegates from more than 150 countries agreed to introduce some schemes aimed at helping industrialized countries to achieve their targets.

These schemes include the emissions trade mechanism, under which industrialized countries that face difficulties in achieving their greenhouse gas-reduction targets can purchase the emission rights from other countries that can afford to make deeper cuts in the gas emissions.

But details of the schemes have not yet been worked out. Largely because of the absence of agreements on the schemes, no industrialized country has ratified the Kyoto Protocol yet.

“We resolve to take the political leadership necessary for the success of COP6,” the draft communique says.

It is widely believed that agreements on the emissions trade mechanism and other schemes will have to be reached at COP6 to make the Kyoto Protocol effective by 2002, as being demanded by some industrialized countries, including Japan and Germany.

But the U.S. remains reluctant to set any target date for making the protocol effective. The U.S. insists that major developing countries also make a “meaningful participation” in efforts to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases before it ratifies the protocol.

Apparently reflecting these differences among the G8 countries, the draft communique leaves to actual discussions among their environmental ministers the question of whether the G8 should seek an effectuation of the Kyoto Protocol “no later than 2002” or “as soon as possible.”

The draft communique notes that the G8 countries have already begun to take various domestic measures to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. “We recommit ourselves to taking the lead in significantly reducing our emissions by further strengthening these efforts in order to show demonstrable progress by 2005.”

On the theme of sustainable development in the 21st century, the draft says,”The development patterns prevailing to date continue to constitute the biggest factor placing stresses on both domestic and global environments.

“We must break with the unsustainable development patters seen in the 20th century, to decouple economic development from increasing pressure on the environment, and to ensure that development occurs sustainably, incorporating a wise use of natural resources.”

“The 21st century will focus on the enhancement of resource efficiency, making a shift from the 20th century’s focus on labor productivity,” it continues. “We welcome the moves toward more sustainable consumption patters, under which consumer preferences are shifting from a focus on the possession of products to a focus on the enjoyment of services.

“We will promote — throughout the entire life cycle of a product — waste reduction, reuse, recycling and appropriate waste disposal that endangers neither human health nor the environment.”

The draft also stresses the need for the G8 countries to promote the preservation of water quality, water quantity and ecosystems, especially in developing countries. “Freshwater is a vital and precious resource essential for all life.”

The draft communique also refers to trade and the environment. “In the wake of the World Trade Organization’s ministerial conference held in November 1999 in Seattle, we need to work with our trade colleagues to advance the trade and environment debate” to ensure that environmental considerations will be included in a new round of global trade liberalization negotiations.

The WTO’s Seattle meeting collapsed due partly to differences among the WTO members over whether trade and the environment should be linked to each other.

“We also need to examine what we, as environment ministers, can do to advance the trade and environment agenda outside the WTO,” the draft says.