Abe urges emissions halved by ’50 globally

by Hiroko Nakata

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday announced a new greenhouse gas initiative calling for emissions to be halved worldwide by 2050 from current levels.

The proposal, made during a speech to Asian leaders titled “Invitation to Cool Earth 50,” appears designed to help Japan take the lead in international efforts to come up with a post-Kyoto Protocol plan to combat global warming when it hosts the Group of Eight summit in July 2008.

“I propose that the world share the long-term target of halving worldwide emissions by 2050 from the current levels,” Abe said in the speech. “We first need to share the target globally, since the current global emissions are more than double the amount that can be absorbed by the nature.”

Japan will actively lobby other countries to reach a global agreement on the target and come up with steps to reach it, Abe said.

The prime minister said the world should create the new framework so all major emitters of greenhouse gases — particularly the United States, China, and India — will join, unlike with the Kyoto Protocol.

Signatories to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol are required to cut their greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by an average of 5.2 percent by 2012.

However, the Kyoto pact does not impose such numerical targets on developing countries, including China, where emissions are rapidly expanding because of its strong economic growth. The United States has pulled out of the Kyoto framework altogether.

Abe’s proposal to get a broader agreement to cut the emissions includes Japan extending financial aid to developing countries, such as China, to help them balance their industrial development policies, and the need to cut emissions.

“We will consider building a new financial mechanism of significant scale for a long term, and will call on other developed countries, the World Bank, the United Nations and other international organizations to cooperate with the plan,” Abe said.

To achieve the global target, Japan will promote new technologies to cut greenhouse gas emissions without sacrificing economic growth, expand safe and peaceful use of nuclear power, and develop lower-cost and more efficient solar batteries and fuel cells.

Japan aims to promote the initiative at this year’s G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany from June 6 to 8, as well as at the following one, which it will host at the Lake Toya hot-spring resort in Hokkaido from July 7 to 9 in 2008, government officials said.