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The government on Wednesday established and held the first meeting of a panel to craft recommendations for promoting development and use of environmentally friendly vehicles.

The panel is expected to concentrate on low-emission vehicles, such as hybrid cars powered by a combination of gasoline engine and electric motor.

The move is part of efforts to help ease air pollution in cities and cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases believed to cause global warming.

The panel’s recommendations will be reported at a Tokyo meeting in January of transport ministers from industrial nations, according to officials in the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry.

In a speech to kick off the panel’s first meeting, ministry chief Chikage Ogi said, “The Cabinet of (Prime Minister Junichiro) Koizumi has decided to replace all state-owned vehicles with low-emission vehicles by the end of fiscal 2004.

“The environment is a global issue in the 21st century. I hope the panel will craft wonderful policies that Japan can send out to international society.”

The panel will map out by the end of the year plans to promote the use of environmentally friendly engines in all types of vehicles.

Under the 1997 Kyoto protocol on global warming, Japan has until 2010 to reduce its average yearly emissions of greenhouse gases to 6 percent below 1990 levels.

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