Environment minister prepared for ringmaster’s role at COP15

by Setsuko Kamiya

Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa said Wednesday he is ready to exercise leadership as Japan’s negotiator at next week’s international meeting in Copenhagen on climate change and to work to ensure China and the United States commit to setting new reduction targets from 2013.

Because of time constraints, Ozawa acknowledged that a legally binding text to set emission targets after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 was out of reach at the COP15 meeting. The widely held view is that the participating countries at the meeting, which starts Dec. 7, may agree on a comprehensive political agreement to set goals to work toward future legal documentation.

“It is meaningless if we come to a decision that lacks the participation of the U.S. and China,” Ozawa said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, adding that he believes the two major emitters are willing to participate. “I really would like to succeed in reaching a political agreement, and make sure we reach the next stage before the COP meeting next year.”

In addition to deciding on the deadline for adopting a new legally binding text, Ozawa said the expected political agreement should include reduction targets for developed countries, and mitigation actions and financial support for developing nations to address climate change.

At the U.N. Summit on climate change in September, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama pledged that Japan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 compared with the 1990 level based on scientific requirement. He added that this commitment is based on the premise that major countries would agree on ambitious targets.

“This reduction target has heightened international momentum to make COP15 a success. I think this is probably one of the greatest contributions Japan has ever made in the field of international issues,” said Ozawa, pointing out that several countries, including South Korea, Brazil, the U.S. and China, announced their reduction targets following Hatoyama’s announcement.

When asked how much of the 25 percent reduction will be achieved through domestic efforts, Ozawa said that was still under discussion.