THREE GREEN THEMES

G8 environment ministers begin Otsu meeting

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OTSU, Shiga Pref. — Environment ministers from the Group of Eight major countries will begin three days of talks here today focusing on the three themes of climate change, the environment and health and sustainable development in the 21st century.

Although three years have passed since Kyoto hosted the Third Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, or COP3, no industrialized nation has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrialized countries to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for causing global warming.

As COP6 will take place in November in The Hague, during which specific rules and mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be discussed, the outcome of the G8 environment ministers’ summit in Otsu is crucial to putting the protocol into effect in 2002, as recommended at COP5 last year.

The protocol requires industrialized countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. Japan must reduce emissions by 6 percent, the United States by 7 percent and the European Union by 8 percent.

The key players’ stance toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions remains unchanged since COP3 in 1997, with the EU taking the lead, the U.S. being the most reluctant, and Japan being somewhere in the middle.

Some EU countries have already introduced or plan to introduce environmental taxes. In 1999, Germany introduced a tax on fossil fuels, and Britain plans to impose a similar tax in January 2001, together with other measures to meet the goal it set itself of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent. The U.S., on the other hand, is not expected to do much until after the presidential election in November.

A joint communique to be adopted Sunday is expected to stress the importance of domestic measures to reduce gas emissions. Japanese environmental groups hope it will prompt the government to take more effective measures, including the introduction of an environment tax and promotion of renewable energy.

Other topics covered in the meeting include waste problems and hazardous chemicals, such as dioxin and chemicals that disrupt hormones.

The G8 environment ministers will also discuss sustainable lifestyles, shifting from energy-intensive consumption patterns and mass production to more environment-friendly resource efficiency.

Two meetings will involve environmental groups and lawmakers. A symposium organized by the Japanese environmental group KIKO Network will take place in Otsu on Saturday. It will review various measures being taken by each G8 country for combating global warming, urging government leaders to take swift action.

The Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment, which consists of lawmakers from countries in Europe, the U.S., Japan and Russia, will hold its 15th general assembly between today and Sunday. In the meeting, discussions will focus on global warming, the environment and trade and global environmental governance. Speakers include businesspeople and officials from international organizations.

Practical measures

The international nonprofit organization World Wide Fund for Nature on Thursday urged participants in the Group of Eight environmental ministers’ meeting to discuss practical measures to reduce domestic greenhouse emissions.

Environmental ministers of the G8 countries begin today three days of discussions in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture.

WWF member Jennifer Morgan said the outcome of the Otsu meeting would have a huge impact on COP6, the Sixth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, which is slated to be held in The Hague in November. During this meeting, specific rules and mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gases are to be discussed.

“During the (Otsu) meeting, an initiative must be shown by the industrialized countries, which are largely responsible for the gas emissions in the past,” she told reporters in Tokyo.

At the same conference, the WWF unveiled a report asserting that nuclear power generation should not be regarded as a solution to global warming, pointing to its low efficiency and its substantial emission of carbon dioxide during nuclear fuel processing.

The report concluded that nuclear generation is not only not a solution to global warming but also a force that exposes the environment to unnecessary risk.