Japanese climate plan undermines EU targets

Suggested maximum 5% cut in greenhouse gases by 2010 far below European aspirations

Japan has proposed that developed countries should agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions less than 5% from 1990 levels by 2010 when they meet at the Kyoto climate change talks in December. The proposal virtually rules out any hope of the EU getting world agreement for a 15% cut by 2010. But it will not necessarily prevent the Union from achieving its own target unilaterally, an EU policy insider has told ENDS Daily.

Japan had been expected to propose relatively modest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The figure of 5% by 2010 has been quoted privately by EU climate officials for some time. But the actual proposal is more modest still.

Developed countries would be expected, but not legally bound, to reduce emissions of the three main greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) by a maximum of 5% from 1990 levels by some time between 2008 and 2012, based on the average emissions for those years. Furthermore, Japan wants variable national targets, based on a "differentiation" model that takes into account countries' comparative emissions per unit of GDP and their population growth rate.

Early responses from EU governments have been guarded, regretting the "insufficient" targets put forward but welcoming the proposal's existence. The environmental group Greenpeace has reacted with horror, describing Japan's plan as an "international disgrace".

Based on the differentiation model proposed, the group calculates that Japan, the USA and Australia would have to reduce emissions by only 2.5%, 2.6% and 1.8% respectively by around 2010. The proposal is "a serious threat to the Kyoto negotiations and certainly not worthy of the host country of the climate summit," it said today.

According to an EU policy insider, the main surprise in today's proposal is not the level, but the call for differentiation of national targets. Though it has agreed an internal "burden sharing" scheme, the EU opposes international differentiation. Japan's proposal is seen as likely to put the EU on the defensive on this point, possibly pointing to a global mechanism of differentiated national targets as an outcome of Kyoto.

In any case, ENDS Daily was told, agreement of international targets substantially weaker than the EU's would not necessarily prevent it from achieving them unilaterally. Within the current burden sharing arrangement, "it would be remarkable if countries like Portugal managed to grow enough" to take up their allowed increase, whereas bigger emitters, including Germany, Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands "have all made unilateral commitments".

Follow Up:
Japanese foreign ministry, tel: +81 3 35 81 38 82; Greenpeace International, tel: +31 20 523 6222.

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