He may not have had time to enjoy the white sand beaches at the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm, Germany, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was undoubtedly relieved heading home from his debut at the Group of Eight summit, having secured an agreement to address climate change that he claimed was “centered on my proposal.”

For Abe, who desperately needs to pull himself out of a slump in public support back home with only a month to go before a crucial House of Councilors election, the G8 summit proved to be a precious opportunity to raise his profile both domestically and internationally.

Soon after the summit concluded Friday, Abe was quick to take credit for bridging the differences between Europe and the United States and sealing an agreement that he said largely reflects his initiatives.

“I am very satisfied that I was able to make a significant contribution to the summit’s discussions and success,” a beaming Abe told a news conference televised live in Japan.

“The discussions (on emissions reduction) were centered on my proposals, and Japan’s proposed plan itself was incorporated in the summit declaration,” he said after detailing his efforts to get his counterparts, including U.S. President George W. Bush, to agree to his initiative.

The initiative, dubbed Cool Earth 50, calls for halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to fight climate change and creating a post-Kyoto Protocol framework.

Abe proudly told the news conference he also gained support from Chinese President Hu Jintao for his proposal, quoting him as saying during their meeting that Beijing will “seriously consider” the initiative and wants to “strengthen cooperation” on global warming with Tokyo.

The bilateral talks followed the three-day G8 summit, to which Hu was invited to attend an outreach dialogue with the leaders of the major powers — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.S. and Russia — as one of five leaders of emerging nations.

The U.S., China and India are considered major greenhouse gas emitters.

At the news conference, Abe emphasized his leadership in guiding discussion on the North Korean nuclear arms and abduction issues at the summit and winning the support of the other leaders to include a “strong message” in the chair’s summary.

The summary says the G8 urges North Korea to respond to “security and humanitarian concerns of the international community, including the early resolution of the issue of abductions.”

Getting Pyongyang’s abductions mentioned at the G8 was important for Abe, whose domestic popularity in recent years has depended largely on his tough stance against North Korea.

To impress the public, Abe picked his language carefully, repeatedly using the word “I,” which is rare in Japanese, to emphasize his achievements at the summit.

But a challenging task lies ahead for Abe as his diplomatic clout and leadership will be truly tested when Japan takes over from Germany to host the G8 summit next year in Hokkaido.

In tailoring his emissions reduction proposal ahead of last week’s summit, Abe chose his words to cater to both sides. Setting the target year for halving the emissions at 2050, he purposely omitted specifics on which base year to be used in order to get reluctant major emitters to join.

Given a G8 leaders’ agreement in Heiligendamm to try to conclude negotiations on the new framework by the end of next year, it will be crucial for Abe to convince his counterparts to agree on more specific targets at the summit to be held July 7 to 9, 2008, at the Lake Toya hot-spring resort.

For related stories:
Abe heads to G8 with hopes of raising domestic standing
Japan to seek 50% global emissions cut at G8 meet
Cool Biz returns to fight global warming
Support for Abe falls below 40%

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