China warms to emissions goals

by Reiji Yoshida

China is expected to express support for Japan’s sector-by-sector approach to setting goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a senior Foreign Ministry official said Friday.

The announcement, to be made in a joint statement on environmental issues Tokyo and Beijing are working on, is likely to follow the bilateral summit Wednesday between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in Tokyo.

If the two leaders agree to issue the statement, it will mark a significant policy shift for China in taking a positive stance toward international efforts to reduce global warming emissions, said the official, on condition of anonymity.

“Developing countries are now showing a cautious stance (toward setting gas reduction goals). If China shows understanding (for Japan’s proposal), it will be big progress,” the official said.

Beijing had maintained “a very tough attitude” on climate change issues, but top Chinese leaders have apparently decided to change policy recently to show more flexibility, the official said.

Prime Minister Fukuda admitted the two countries are discussing the contents of the joint statement but did not elaborate further.

“(Japan) should cooperate with China in dealing with environmental problems. It’s quite important to coordinate viewpoints,” Fukuda told reporters Friday morning.

China, which describes itself as a developing country, has opposed setting any emissions-cutting goals for itself in a post-Kyoto Protocol international framework proposed for 2013.

China is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States. The participation of all major emitters, including China, is vital if the post-2012 framework is to succeed, Japan has said.

Tokyo and Beijing are negotiating about how the joint statement should touch on China’s commitment — if any — to a post-Kyoto Protocol framework, the official said.

As the host of this year’s Group of Eight summit in July, Japan has proposed a bottom-up approach to setting gas reduction goals for each industrial sector.