A compromise agreement at the Group of Eight summit to seriously consider halving global greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 incorporates Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposal for halving the emissions by that year without setting a baseline year. Japan, the host of next year’s G8 summit, must do its utmost to fulfill its obligations under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol if it wants to play a leading role in fighting global warming.

Under the protocol Japan must reduce emissions in the 2008-2012 period by 6 percent from 1990 levels. But fiscal 2005 emissions were about 8 percent more than the base levels. The government’s white paper on the environment and a recycle-based society has called on the household sector to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions by switching to fluorescent bulbs and energy-saving appliances. Wider use of environment-friendly vehicles will also help reduce emissions.

Under new rules, passenger cars in Japan must attain a fuel efficiency of 16.8 km per liter by fiscal 2015, a 23.5 percent improvement from the fiscal 2004 record. EU proposes that carbon-dioxide emissions from new cars and vans be reduced by about 25 percent by 2012. The U.S. Supreme Court has encouraged the Environmental Protection Agency to control carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases by ruling that these gases are “pollutants” under the Clean Air Act.

The Japan Center for Climate Change Actions says that the industrial sector was responsible for 35.2 percent of Japan’s CO2 emissions in 2005 and the transport sector 19.8 percent. In the latter, cars are responsible for about 90 percent of the emissions.

By the end of May, Toyota Motor Corp. sold more than 1 million Prius models, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid car. It has been on sale since December 1997. Honda Motor Co. is developing cars with clean-burning diesel engines. Nissan Motor Co. and Suzuki Motor Corp. have similar plans. While “green” cars are expensive, consumers shopping for cars should consider their long-term impact on the environment. For their part, automakers must make make efforts to reduce the cost of such vehicles.

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