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The European Union has urged Japan and the United States to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent each by 2020 from 1990 levels in an attempt to ensure that developed countries pull their fair share in the fight against climate change.

The EU figure could influence debate on Japan’s emissions reduction target for 2020, which Prime Minister Taro Aso says he will unveil by June prior to a Group of Eight summit in Italy in July and a key U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen in December.

Japan is studying six options for its 2020 target. Compared with 1990 levels, they are growth of 6 percent, a range from a 2 percent decrease to a 7 percent increase, a 4 percent decline, a 1 percent to 12 percent contraction, a 16 percent to 17 percent cut and a 25 percent reduction.

“We are not demanding that Japan take on precisely 24 percent,” said James Hunt, climate change envoy for Czech Environment Minister Martin Bursik, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

“I don’t imagine it’s coming up with the same number, but we look for something reasonably close or even greater,” Hunt said in an interview after a meeting Friday in Tokyo between Environment Minister Tetsuo Saito and a high-level EU delegation on climate change.

The delegation comprised Bursik, Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren and Nancy Kontou, head of the Cabinet for European Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas.

“My sense is that Mr. Saito is very well aware of the IPCC findings and the European Union’s line,” Hunt said, referring to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s suggestion that developed countries as a group should cut emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.

The EU took into account four parameters — gross domestic product per capita, emissions per unit of GDP, countries’ population trends between 1990 and 2005, and countries’ past efforts to reduce emissions over the same period — when calculating targets for Japan and other advanced economies to ensure industrial nations as a group achieve a 30 percent reduction by 2020 from 1990 levels.

For its part, the European Union is vowing to slash emissions by 30 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels on condition that other industrial economies ensure comparable reductions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

“What we are saying is that developed countries must take the lead if we expect China, India, Brazil and others to take on strong mitigating actions,” Hunt said.

Targets for 2020 are crucial for Japan and other economies because they represent a key component of a successor treaty to the Kyoto pact to be adopted at December’s U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen.

Jos Delbeke, deputy director general for the environment at the European Commission, the EU executive branch, wants Japan to set a “meaningful” and “ambitious” target, but he stopped short of spelling out a specific figure.

“We’ve made it clear that we want a meaningful target,” Delbeke said. “And out of the six options, half of the options are meaningful and so we encourage the Japanese authorities to continue that investigation.”

Alluding to the EU-calculated target for Washington, Hunt indicated that President Barack Obama’s pledge to bring U.S. emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020 will not be enough to address climate change. The United States and China are the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters.

“We will encourage as much as we can the United States both to be ambitious and to be confident that they have the technological capacity to undertake this kind of transition to a low-carbon economy,” Hunt said.

“In the United States, we recognize that there are many opportunities through energy efficiency in particular and through changes in energy-use patterns for them to achieve relatively cheap — and indeed in some cases cost-beneficial — mitigation,” he said.

Hunt said he expects the Japanese and EU leaders to focus on climate change when they meet for a summit in early May in the Czech Republic.

The leaders are likely to discuss commitments by industrial nations and the contribution of developing countries to curbing emissions, he said.

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