Fukuda faces post-Kyoto balancing act



As Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda kicked off Japan’s climate diplomacy as this year’s president of the Group of Eight, he took on the immense task of leading global negotiations to build a new carbon reduction framework involving all major polluters.

Japan plans to use this July’s G8 summit in Hokkaido as the main vehicle to start the process of compiling a medium-term global emissions reduction target after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, according to Foreign Ministry officials.

For the long term, the G8 — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the U.S. — and the United Nations have broadly shared consensus on cutting global greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050 from current levels.

But Japan is likely to face challenges from divergent views among the United States, the European Union and developing countries led by China and India over the method and the speed of reducing emissions, given their different approaches.

As the G8 host, Japan will try to narrow these gaps during a series of climate change meetings, such as the Group of 20 ministerial dialogue in March in Chiba, the G8 development ministers talks in April in Tokyo, the G8 environment ministers gathering in May in Kobe, the G8 energy ministerial talks in June in Aomori, the G8 foreign ministers meeting in June in Kyoto and the G8 summit itself.

Japan is also considering hosting the Environment and Energy Summit of G8 leaders and their peers from other polluters and the U.S.-led Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change around the July 7-9 summit.

The outcome of these talks will determine the course of a key U.N. climate change meeting in Poznan, Poland, in December, a year before the end-of-2009 deadline for countries to reach an agreement on a post-Kyoto Protocol framework that officials and experts say must ensure the involvement of the United States and China — the world’s two biggest polluters — to make it effective.

In a move to exercise leadership as the G8 chairman, Fukuda proposed Saturday that major polluters — both industrial and developing countries — each come up with quantified national reduction targets to help set a midterm global goal and achieve a long-term reduction goal.

He said a post-Kyoto framework must ensure equitable reduction obligations so big non-Kyoto emitters such as the U.S., China and India can come on board to make it effective.

Fukuda advocated setting national carbon reduction targets based on a “bottom up” sectorial approach in which each country calculates possible cuts on an industry-by-industry, area-by-area basis that would then be tallied for a national goal. Areas include offices, households and transportation.

This method, which uses energy efficiency in each sector as a yardstick, is more viable than the “top down” Kyoto-style approach that allotted reduction obligations to each country after setting a global reduction goal. Japanese officials believe the new approach would make it easier for China, India and the U.S. to participate.

Last month, Japan came under fire from environmentalists for siding with the U.S. and others at the U.N. climate change talks in Bali, Indonesia, blocking a proposal by the European Union and developing countries to adopt a reference target of a 25 percent to 40 percent cut below 1990 levels by 2020 for developed countries, a level suggested by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Washington argues it will back voluntary reductions and that the burden of emission cuts imposed exclusively on industrial nations, as in the Kyoto pact, is unfair because it excludes emerging powerhouses such as China and India. The U.S. is the only developed country to have rejected the Kyoto accord.

Developing countries oppose binding emissions reduction goals, saying such targets could slow their economies and that rich and poor countries should have “common but differentiated responsibilities” in addressing climate change.

Japanese officials said Fukuda’s proposal is meant to dispel international suspicion, as seen in Bali, that Japan is reluctant to implement steps to fight global warming.

A researcher involved in Japan’s climate change policy said that based on the sectoral approach, the Environment Ministry is considering presenting potential emissions reduction levels by Japan and other countries at the G8 environment ministers meeting in May.

U.S., China targeted

DAVOS, Switzerland (Kyodo) Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has pledged Japan’s “all-out efforts” to get the United States and China involved in an international framework on climate change to be established after the 2012 expiration of the Kyoto Protocol, Japanese officials said.

In talks Saturday with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Fukuda also said that getting the world’s two biggest polluters on board doesn’t mean that other parties should settle for easier reduction targets for the sake of reaching an accord, according to the officials.

The Kyoto Protocol binds 37 industrialized countries to cut emissions by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012. The pact does not subject developing countries to binding cuts.

Blair expressed hope that Japan will take the initiative on global warming during the Group of Eight summit in July to be held in the resort area near Toya Lake, Hokkaido. He said much depends on the leadership of Japan, which will host the parley.

Fukuda was meeting with Blair on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, or the Davos forum, of policymakers, business leaders and leading academics from around the world.

Fukuda arrived back in Tokyo on Sunday afternoon.