KYOTO — U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said Sunday that while long-term goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are important, it is more critical that a post-Kyoto Protocol treaty with midterm targets be concluded in Copenhagen by next year.
But he warned there appears to be insufficient political leadership, especially among developed countries, to reach that goal and said Japan needs to do more to push the matter forward.
“Japan’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent to 80 percent by 2050 is impressive. Japan has also indicated that it might reduce emissions by 14 percent from the current level by 2020. Today, I call on Japan to provide further leadership in developing an even more far-reaching proposal,” Ban told a group of scholars, students and local residents during a meeting at Kyoto University.
“There is a lack of political will at the leadership level (for midterm targets). Each country must contribute, and this is something I will discuss with Prime Minister (Yasuo) Fukuda on Monday,” Ban said.
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, and efforts are on to hammer out a new agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009.
“Ambitious targets by all major emitters are essential to conclude the deal,” Ban said. “By Copenhagen, we must agree not only on long-term goals, but also on short and medium-term targets.”
Ban arrived in Japan on Saturday on the first leg of a two-week Asia tour that will also take him to South Korea and China as well as next week’s Group of Eight summit in Toyako, Hokkaido.
His visit comes at a time when international pressure is growing on Japan as host of the G8 summit to aggressively push other summit leaders to make a strong statement on the need for binding midterm emission reduction targets.
However, hopes for strong leadership from both Japan and the G8 summit for such a statement dimmed earlier this month when Fukuda said it is up to U.N. negotiators, not the G8, to agree on midterm targets.
Ban’s visit to Japan is designed to put political pressure on Fukuda to get the G8 leaders to make a statement that will show developing countries the rich nations are serious about taking the lead in reaching a climate change agreement.
Many in Japanese industry, especially the steel and utility companies that burn a lot of coal, oppose midterm targets.
At Sunday’s meeting, a representative from Kansai Electric Power Co. said the industry agrees that long-term goals are important, and spoke on the need for improved green technologies as the ultimate solution for reducing greenhouse gases worldwide.
However, others noted that the consensus of the scientific community, as outlined by the U.N. last year, is that climate change is occurring much faster than previously thought and that action between now and 2020 is needed to prevent a global climate catastrophe.
Ban praised Fukuda’s recently announced plan for a low-carbon future society, saying it is the kind of leadership by example other developed countries need to follow.
He also said that improved energy efficiency and the widespread use of renewable energy sources are necessary to cut emissions by half by 2050.