Government»Japanese Targets Unimpress Critics
»Friday, June 12,2009
Taro Aso, Japan's prime minister, announced the target in Tokyo while UN talks on a draft climate agreement are continuing in Bonn. The talks, which finish on Friday, aim to lay foundations for a a meeting in Copenhagen in December when a new global treaty on global warming to succeed the Kyoto protocol will be agreed.
Observers said Japan's target was only slightly more ambitious than already required under Kyoto - a cut of 6% on 1990 levels by 2012. Japan's emissions have actually risen 7% since 1990. Its new 15% reduction commitment uses a 2005 baseline, equating to a 8% cut on 1990 levels by 2020.
Japan will have to do more to help keep global warming below dangerous levels, said the European environment commissioner Stavros Dimas: "The EU believes that we must be fundamentally guided by science."
Japan's target represents "the weakest target any country has pledged so far", said Kristian Tangen, at analysts Point Carbon
The UN climate panel says developed countries should reduce their emissions by 25% to 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 to keep temperature increases to within 2C of pre-industrial temperatures.
Paul Cook, director of advocacy at development charity Tearfund, said: "This is a disaster. The level of ambition among developed countries is already incredibly weak – way below the 40% emissions reductions needed. . Japan's decision risks creating a race to the bottom among other developed countries looking for an excuse to evade tough targets."
The group said Japan's decision would make it difficult for EU countries to increase their target of a 20% reduction by 2020 to 30% – which they say they will only do if other developed countries make a similar effort to cut emissions.
The Obama administration has talked of cutting emissions by 17% on 2005 levels by 2020, about 4% relative to 1990 levels. But the target has yet to be approved and may be weakened to help it pass into law.
Cook said: "It is difficult to see how a fair, science-based deal can be achieved [at] Copenhagen if developed countries so utterly fail to do what is necessary to prevent a catastrophe for poor people and for the planet. Japan should be condemned for its failure of leadership and ambition."
Japan argues its target is ambitious given that its economy is already relatively energy and carbon efficient. It already has made a long-term pledge to cut emissions 60-80% by 2050.
Kim Carstensen of WWF said: "It is true that Japan's energy efficiency improved in the 1980s, during the oil crisis. Unfortunately, since 1990 most of the sector's energy efficiency either stagnated or declined."
Hidefumi Kurasaka, professor of environmental policies at Chiba University, Japan, said: "The target is not strong enough to convince developing nations to sign up for a new climate change pact. Japan's population is falling, so that means it has an advantage over the United States. The fact that Japan can commit to only an 8% cut from 1990 levels, even as its population falls, will lead to doubts over its seriousness to fight climate change."