Last month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sought a leading role in the fight against climate change when he proposed a global initiative to halve greenhouse gas emis sions by 2050.

But for all its dramatic appeal — made in the leadup to last week's Group of Eight summit in Germany — the disconnect between Abe's Cool Earth 50 proclamation and Japan's spotty environmental record had many people scratching their heads.

Japan boasted its green credentials in 1997 when it hosted talks leading to the historic Kyoto Protocol, in which signatories agreed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by an average of 5.2 percent by 2012. Japan itself committed to cuts of 6 percent by 2008-2012.