As host of the third United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Kyoto in December, Japan should work out an achievable target for all parties in an effort to curb emissions of global-warming gases, says Hiroshi Oki, newly appointed general director of the Environment Agency.

Oki, 70, a former diplomat and a member of the Upper House, argues that industrialized member countries should be able to reach a common reduction target at the Kyoto conference, but is cautious when mentioning specific figures. “There are still differences between the European Union, Japan and the United States on their reduction targets,” Oki told reporters. “We could fail to obtain consensus if we pursued, for example, the EU’s 15 percent reduction as the final goal.”

The EU has proposed cutting its emissions of global-warming gases by 15 percent from the 1990 level by 2010, while the U.S. and Japan have yet to draw up specific reduction policies. Former agency chief Michiko Ishii’s recent remarks regarding a 5 percent reduction target for Japan drew harsh criticism from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and this appears to be underlying Oki’s caution over the target.

MITI, which represents business interests, has long opposed any reduction measures that could lead to a slowdown in Japan’s business activities. Oki seems aware of such difficulties in designing reduction policies at the domestic level. “Agency officials at the working level are trying to determine whether or not the 5 percent reduction is feasible,” Oki said. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean the agency or the government will eventually pursue that figure.”

While determined to appease contradicting interests among concerned ministries before the Kyoto conference, Oki argues that no agreement will be successfully implemented without winning the understanding of the public. “For the general public, the issue of global warming is hard to see in everyday life because carbon dioxide and its effect on the global environment are invisible,” Oki said. “To work things out with the public, it will be necessary to create policies that are achievable and convincing.” Oki, however, failed to provide any concrete measures for curbing emissions of greenhouse gases.

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