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Environment Agency chief Yoriko Kawaguchi has praised Japan’s global warming measures and hinted at the need for more action by the United States going into international climate change negotiations next month in the Netherlands.

Speaking Wednesday in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Kawaguchi focused on global warming issues. She played up domestic initiatives, contrasting the nation’s emissions with those of the U.S., the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

“The Japanese government, in its efforts to bring the Kyoto conference to a successful close, opted for a domestically difficult policy to reduce emissions in what was a lean system to begin with,” Kawaguchi said.

Japan has committed to reducing emissions by 6 percent of 1990 emission levels under the Kyoto Protocol agreed at COP3 — the Third Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change — held in Kyoto in December 1997.

However, greenhouse gas emissions have jumped more than 5 percent based on 1990 levels, nearly doubling the amount of emissions Japan must cut to meet its goal.

“The implications of attempting to reduce CO2 emissions are very different for a country like Japan, in which people already commute by public transportation, compared with countries in which people commute one person to a car,” she added, providing a potential preview of Japan’s negotiating stance at COP6, which will open in The Hague on Nov. 13.

“If you look at the amount of CO2 emitted per dollar of GDP (gross domestic product), you will see that Japan releases less than half the ratio of the U.S. and lower than that of the U.K.,” she added, ostensibly taking a shot at the U.S. and other car-dependent Western countries.

“According to the media, the United States, which is the leading emitter of greenhouse gases, is less than enthusiastic about ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, which would bring great cause for alarm should it be true.”

Kawaguchi also addressed the touchy topic of “sinks” — carbon-absorbing entities such as forests and green areas. Japan has proposed sinks be liberally interpreted to account for 3.7 percent of the nation’s emissions cuts.

“There are those who call the inclusion of greenhouse gas-absorbing sinks, such as forests, merely an attempt to avoid undertaking other policies, but nothing could be farther from the truth,” Kawaguchi said, adding that Japan has been “undertaking some very strenuous energy-conservation efforts domestically.”

However, under the current government proposal, emissions from energy consumption would remain at 1990 levels and the harvesting and replanting of forests would account for more than half of Japan’s emissions reductions.

Kawaguchi also emphasized the importance of getting developing countries to take action to fight climate change, a favorite mantra of the U.S., but added that it is incumbent upon industrialized countries to move first.

“To be frank, the more I see of the progress of these negotiations, the more concerned I become. However, I think it is important to look at this in more of the spirit of a businessperson looking to turn what appears to be an obstacle into a business opportunity,” Kawaguchi said, alluding to her former position as a managing director of Suntory Ltd.

“We should try to work around our differences and reach compromises on the key issues that are unresolved regarding the (Kyoto) Protocol.”

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