• Kyodo

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Delegates from 40 countries from the Asia-Pacific region on Sunday began discussing mutual cooperation and strategies to improve the environment at a one-day conference held in Kitakyushu.

Participants in Eco Asia 2000, mainly organized by the Environment Agency, are exchanging views on such issues as the region’s contribution to the “Rio+10” U.N. conference on the environment and development, slated for 2002, and efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Environment Agency chief Yoriko Kawaguchi, selected to chair the meeting, said in her opening address that she hopes frank discussions will be held on two key issues — regional cooperation toward the success of the Rio+10, and a U.N. conference on climate change scheduled for November in The Hague.

The Hague conference is expected to decide on concrete measures to reduce greenhouse gases, paving the way for the ratification of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which requires developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by between 2008 and 2012.

Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said the solidarity is important in developing a new economy to solve environmental problems, and called for “engagement by all segments of society,” including nongovernmental organizations, businesses and community groups.

Kitakyushu Mayor Koichi Sueyoshi highlighted the city’s experience of overcoming severe pollution with the cooperation of local and central governments, citizens, businesses and researchers, and stressed the importance of municipalities’ initiatives in promoting sustainable development.

Of the 40 participating countries, 23 have dispatched ministers. The United States, which took part in past Eco Asia meetings, held nearly annually in Japanese cities since 1991, boycotted this year’s gathering to protest Japan’s expanded whale hunt.

Sessions are open to the public, and participants will adopt a chairman’s summary at the end of the meeting.

The summary will be forwarded to a two-day environment ministers meeting of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, which starts today.

Support for Indonesia

KITAKYUSHU (Kyodo) Japan has expressed its support for Indonesia’s bid to host Rio+10, an international conference on the environment, in 2002, Japanese government officials said.

The officials said Japan expressed its view on the Indonesian bid during two days of senior officials’ meetings Thursday and Saturday here in Kitakyushu. The meetings were part of a six-day dialogue sponsored by the Bangkok-based U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

During a two-day ESCAP ministerial meeting today and Tuesday, Japan plans to renew its support for Indonesia’s bid to host the Rio+10 conference, a followup to the Earth Summit, a U.N.-sponsored forum on the environment and development held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro.

During the senior officials’ meetings, the Japanese officials said, other participating countries withheld comments on their positions, saying a consensus has not been reached at home.

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