Communique to give strong G8 message, EC official reckons

OTSU, Shiga Pref. — Margot Wallstrom, commissioner for the environment with the European Commission, welcomed the outcome of a meeting of environment ministers from the Group of Eight countries Sunday, saying the joint communique adopted at the talks will send a “strong message” to the G8 summit in July in Okinawa.

“The most important outcome of this meeting was that all countries present said that ‘we want to make COP6 a success,’ including the U.S.,” Wallstrom said in an interview after the end of the three-day meeting.

The United States was against setting any timetable in the communique for putting the Kyoto Protocol into effect, saying it would send a negative message to the U.S. Senate, which opposes ratification of the protocol. COP6, or the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations convention on climate change, will take place in November in The Hague, Netherlands. The European Commission has been calling for making the Kyoto Protocol ratifiable at COP6 by agreeing on specific rules and guidelines for reducing greenhouse gases blamed for causing global warming.

Although major differences still remain among industrialized countries, Wallstrom, who is from Sweden, said she is confident they can be resolved at COP6.

One contentious issue is how much parties may use “flexibility mechanisms,” under which emission reduction measures abroad are counted against domestic targets.

Europe is demanding that countries only be allowed to negotiate with other nations for a maximum 50 percent reduction in domestic emissions, while the U.S., Japan and some others are against any such limit.

Wallstrom stressed the importance of carrying out domestic measures, saying it is “the only way to gain credibility and to bring developing countries on board.”

The Kyoto Protocol obliges the European Union to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent from 1990 level between 2008 and 2012.

But EU members’ total carbon dioxide emissions, the main culprit of greenhouse gases, is increasing, and it is feared that without a reinforcement of current policy measures, greenhouse gas emissions will end up increasing by between 6 percent and 8 percent, according to a European Commission report.

To strengthen measures, the commission launched in March the European Climate Change Program, which consists of two pillars. One is the establishment of an emissions trading system within the EU for the energy sector and big industrial installations, and the second is targeted measures to reduce emissions from specific sources. The program has already been sent to the European Parliament and is now under discussion, she said.

A list of proposed policies and measures includes improving energy-efficient standards for electrical equipment, public procurement of efficient end-use technologies and the extension of the environmentally enhanced vehicle concept to passenger cars and light-duty vehicles.

Wallstrom said the commission has taken measures on the big-industries sector, and it is moving to the emissions reduction in the transport sector, which is more difficult because it directly relates to people’s lifestyle.

“But we have to address those issues as well,” she said, urging other countries, such as Japan, to follow suit.