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Stiffening its policy on the environment, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry drew a clear line July 11 separating itself from Australia, which advocates a flexible approach to tackling global warming.

Speaking at a regularly scheduled news conference, MITI chief Shinji Sato said he will clarify Japan’s stance during his four-day visit to Australia starting July 13. “It seems that Australia does not understand our stance,” he said. “So I would like to tell them that we will be taking a strict stance on this global issue.”

Sato, who is to attend celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of the bilateral trade treaty, will meet with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Tim Fischer, deputy prime minister and minister for trade, and John Moore, minister for industry, science and tourism. Japan is to host a major environmental conference in Kyoto in December at which more than 150 signatory nations to the 1994 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change will decide how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions after 2000. They have already agreed that all industrialized nations will reduce such emissions to 1990 levels by 2000.

Australia has been calling for differentiations in setting reduction targets by taking into account such factors as past efforts, economic structure, trade patterns and population growth rates. This is in contrast to the European Union’s call for a uniform numerical target of a 15 percent cut from the 1990 level.

Japan had earlier presented proposals that would allow each industrialized nation to choose between two post-2000 targets: an agreed rate of reduction in national output of carbon dioxide emissions or an agreed volume of per capita emissions. But on July 11, Sato said Japan will no longer pursue such an approach, which has attracted strong criticism from governments and environmentalists both at home and abroad.

He said Japan does not hold the same view as Australia. “It might have been taken that Japan is showing understanding to the view held by Australia,” he said. “But I don’t think you can get other countries to understand the idea of allowing differentiations.”

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