Fukuda, EU leaders agree to boost cooperation in climate-change fight

by Reiji Yoshida

Japan and the European Union agreed Wednesday to step up cooperation in the fight against global warming, calling for a “highly ambitious and binding international approach” to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who now serves as president-in-office of the European Council, met Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda at his official residence in Tokyo in an annual meeting between top EU and Japanese leaders.

In a joint statement, they expressed “strong concern” over recent sharp rises in the prices of crude oil and food, saying such developments could slow down the global economy and particularly hurt developing countries’ efforts to overcome poverty.

Japan and the EU will send a “strong and coherent message” on the world economy at the Group of Eight summit in July in Hokkaido, the statement said.

Fukuda is preparing to approach a number of world leaders to seek cooperation at the G8 summit, which he will chair.

The main items on the agenda at the G8 summit are expected to include climate change, development assistance to African nations, and the recent surge in prices of natural resources and commodities on the global market.

At a news conference after the talks, Fukuda hailed the EU as a “strategic partner” to deal with global challenges, saying he agreed with Barroso and Jansa to work together to build a framework in which major economies participate in cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

Barroso agreed with Fukuda, saying the EU and Japan share a sense of “urgency” regarding climate change and understand the need for “collective action” by the countries involved.

Specifically, Japan has proposed sector-by-sector goals for controlling greenhouse gas emissions as a means to form an international consensus.

Tokyo has also argued that the sector-by-sector approach would make it easier to compare the efficiency of countries’ carbon-reduction technologies, and help each country set a fair emissions goal.

But EU countries have favored imposing a total cap on a nation’s emissions, saying it is more politically powerful and would make it easier for each country to set a more ambitious goal.

In the joint statement, the EU agreed that Japan’s bottom-up proposal is “useful to identify the technically possible mitigation potential” of emission-cutting efforts. However, the statement gave no further details.

“I think we have won a certain understanding (from the EU) on the sectoral approach,” Fukuda said.

A Foreign Ministry official said Japan asked the EU to include its appreciation of Tokyo’s proposal in the joint statement.