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The House of Councilors on Friday approved statutes designed to put Japan on the path to meet its legally binding international obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, also given the legislative stamp of approval the same day.

Under the revised global warming prevention law, Japan aims to trim greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 6 percent of 1990 levels over the period from 2008 to 2012.

The legislation calls for action in three stages.

The first relies on voluntary efforts by industrial sectors and the public through 2004. If progress is deemed insufficient, stiffer measures may be enacted between 2004 and 2007.

The centerpiece of the law is the Kyoto Protocol Achievement Plan, a spruced-up version of the Outline for Global Warming Prevention revised earlier this year.

It addresses more than 100 ways to fight climate change, such as trimming energy use and introducing daylight-saving time. It also will set up forums for discussions by the public, civic groups and local authorities on how to combat climate change.

The Kyoto Protocol, which was also endorsed by the Upper House the same day, is slated to be ratified by the Cabinet on June 4.

Environment Minister Hiroshi Ohki told a news conference that Japan has done all it can for the treaty to come into force in time for the Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, which will run through early September.

The so-called Earth Summit 2002 has become the de facto target date for bringing the accord into force.

However, Russia is dragging its feet and is unlikely to ratify the document in time.

In addition, the United States has decided to drop out of the protocol.

Ohki said that he hopes Japan’s ratification will encourage others, especially Russia, to commit to the pact.

Nongovernmental groups hailed the Diet’s endorsement of the protocol as progress but said current policy alone is inadequate.

“Finally, 4 1/2 years after (being penned at) the Kyoto conference to stop global warming, Japan has fulfilled part of its responsibility as chair of the meeting,” Kiko Network, a nongovernmental organization focusing on climate change, said in a release. “It is clear that we cannot expect effective cuts in emissions under the current Outline for Global Warming Prevention.

“The government needs to take the lead by involving citizens in a debate on effective measures, such as a climate change levy, and not put off implementing additional measures. We request that the government demonstrate strong political will to fight global warming while embarking on a bold policy shift, not getting caught up in the ineffective conventional politics it has been stuck in until now.”

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