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With a key international conference on climate change less than four months away, Japan is stepping up diplomatic efforts to resolve sharp differences among the industrialized and developing countries over reductions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases widely blamed for global warming.

Japan will hold informal high-level talks with some other major industrialized economies on the issue in Tokyo next month and send a high-level mission to Indonesia next month for consultations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, government officials said August 27. Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto will also raise the issue of reducing the greenhouse gases with Chinese leaders when he visits Beijing for four days beginning Sept. 4, the officials said, requesting anonymity.

The third conference of the parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP3 as it is more commonly referred to, will be held in Kyoto in December. The parties will try to set legally binding targets for the industrialized economies to slash their emissions of the greenhouse gases after 2000.

The current U.N. convention, signed by some 150 countries at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, only calls for the industrialized economies to take a legally nonbinding step of stabilizing their emissions of carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases at 1990 levels by 2000. Although the convention signatory countries have so far held several preparatory meetings for the COP3, an agreement remains elusive because of sharp differences, not only among the industrialized economies, but also between the industrialized and developing economies.

The 15-nation European Union insists that the industrialized economies cut their emissions of the greenhouse gases by a uniform 15 percent by 2010 from the 1990 levels. The U.S., the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide, and some other industrialized economies — including Japan and Australia — vehemently oppose any such scale of reductions, and view them as unrealistic.

Further complicating the prospects for the COP3 is growing U.S. pressure on the developing countries, especially the rapidly growing economies in Asia and Latin America, to make commitments in Kyoto to some legally binding reduction targets.

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