INTERVIEW - Japan Debates Own 2050 Emission Cut Target
Author: Linda Sieg
Japanese newspaper reports earlier this month said Japan, the world's fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases that cause global warming, would announce in June a target of cutting its emissions by 60 to 80 percent to boost its leadership credentials as host of the Group of Eight summit in July.
"We are currently debating all the possibilities," Koji Tsuruoka, director-general for global issues at the foreign ministry told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
"It is fair to say that this is under very serious consideration," he added. "But we have to make the statement credible."
G8 leaders agreed to seriously consider a target of halving global emissions by 2050 at last year's summit in Germany, and Japan, the European Union and Canada are backing the goal.
But developing nations have said they would not sign up to such a goal at a summit of leaders of major economies in Japan in July unless the United States did far more to curb emissions.
US President George W. Bush unveiled in April a plan to halt the growth of US emissions by 2025, but Washington has said only that it was still "seriously considering" whether to adopt a goal of halving world emissions by 2050.
"TWO TO TANGO"
Tsuruoka said that setting a national goal for Japan would demonstrate Tokyo's commitment to achieving the long-term global target and send a message to the Japanese public "that business as usual is not going to achieve global '50 by 50'".
But developing technologies to meet a national target would require huge investment and coordinated R&D by developed countries -- something underway but not yet sufficient, he said.
Japanese media have called on their government to set medium- and long-term emissions reduction targets to show that Tokyo can take the lead at the G8 and give momentum to UN-led efforts to forge a new framework after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
About 190 nations have agreed to negotiate by the end of 2009 a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which binds 37 industrialised nations to cut emissions by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
Bush pulled the United States, the world's top carbon emitter, out of Kyoto saying it would hurt the economy and unfairly excluded big developing nations from making firm commitments to cut emissions.
Tsuruoka denied that Japan's diplomatic clout would be reduced if it did not announce a national target before the G8.
"It's not a diplomatic imperative because the summit is not the end of the story," he said.
"It is one stop, a very important and crucial stop, of course. But the UN negotiation is to be concluded by the end of 2009 so what role the summit plays in the year 2008 is, of course, very important but it is not the final decisive moment."
Japan's public might be put off if Tokyo set a target while China and other emerging economies that are also big emitters did not, Tsuruoka said.
"Because we are in a democratic society, if we lose support of the public on our policy announcement, then we will not be able to deliver what we have committed," he said.
"If we have an announcement and then China applauds and says well done, so go ahead ... you need two to tango."
(Editing by David Fogarty)