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Prior to the Toyako Group of Eight summit in July 2008, Japan adopted a long-range goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by 60 to 80 percent by 2050 from the current level. But compared with other major developed countries, Japan has been slow in deciding on a midrange reduction goal.

The European Union has announced a plan to reduce emissions by 20 to 30 percent from the 1990 level by 2020. U.S. President Barack Obama proposed during his campaign that his country reduce emissions to the 1990 level by 2020. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that to minimize the effect of global warming, developed nations need to reduce emissions by 25 to 40 percent from the 1990 level by 2020.

The U.N. Climate Change Conference in December 2009 will discuss global efforts to cut emissions in and after 2013 after the expiration in 2012 of the Kyoto Protocol, which require developed nations as a whole to cut emissions by 5.2 percent from the 1990 level. Long- and midrange reduction goals will be important in fueling discussions at the conference.

Last month, a Japanese government panel came up six options for a midrange reduction goal. The goal is expected to be adopted by June. The laxest option allows for an increase of some 5 percent from the 1990 level and the strictest calls for a decrease of some 25 percent from the same level. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan is obliged to reduce emissions in the 2008-2012 period by an average 6 percent from that level.

It is surprising that the options include an increase in emissions from the 1990 level. As Environment Minister Tetsuo Saito said, some options would bring shame to Japan if they are presented to the international community. In fiscal 2007, Japan’s emissions increased a record 8.7 percent from the 1990 level. Emissions in fiscal 2008 are expected to decrease by about 4 percent from the same level. But this is due to the economic recession.

Prime Minister Taro Aso should realize that Japan is timid in tackling global warming and exert leadership in an effort to transform Japan into a low-carbon society.

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