Page last updated at 12:03 GMT, Monday, 7 July 2008 13:03 UK

Japan waits on US for CO2 targets

By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News

President Bush with Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (AP)
Japan will wait for the next president before negotiating

Japan says that it will not negotiate new targets on CO2 emissions until it sees what the new US President has to offer on climate change.

A senior Japanese official also told the BBC his country would continue to try to re-negotiate the baseline date against which CO2 targets are measured.

Japan’s emissions are more than 6% above the 1990 Kyoto Protocol baseline.

World leaders are starting the three-day G8 summit in Toyako, on Japan's northern Hokkaido island.

Mr Jun Arima, chief negotiator for the powerful industry ministry METI, promised that Japan would meet its promised 6% CO2 cut by purchasing pollution credits from developing countries.

He also said Japan was hopeful of gathering support at the G8 for its plan for sectoral efficiency targets for industry.

He said the UK had been supportive of the idea, which would oblige the major industrial sectors which account for 40% of global emissions to adopt the best possible technologies.

Sliding scale

This idea is reassuring to some big firms in developed countries because it helps ensure that exporters in developing countries cannot undercut them by using polluting technology.

Mr Arima said there would have to be some sort of sliding scale, with firms in emerging economies facing higher standards than they faced at present, but lower than those in rich nations.

Without this, China and India would not participate and there would be no meaningful global progress on tackling climate change.


Remote controlled toilet could undermine Japan's vision of energy efficiency.

He said that in order for the idea to work, developing countries would need to cut all their energy subsidies. Their prize would be assistance to obtain the most modern technology.

But it is not clear how technology transfer would happen or who would pay.

And Mr Arima would not say whether the sectoral approach should be an alternative to the sorts of CO2 cuts negotiated under the Kyoto process of the UN, or in addition to them.

The sectoral approach would apply to energy-intensive sectors like steel, aluminium, transport and cement.

He hopes that the power generation sector could also be included. A different approach would be needed to improve energy efficiency in buildings.

Alternative approach

He said one advantage of the sectoral approach was that the results would be measurable and transparent – and less subject to what he called a political "beauty contest".

Japan is still smarting over the Kyoto Protocol in which it feels it was unfairly treated.

"Japan has ratified, so we will do our best to achieve Kyoto our target, although it may mean buying credits from overseas (developing countries) - that does not mean we are totally satisfied with Kyoto," said Mr Arima.

The US sees advantages in Japan's sectoral targets as they help address the issue of competitiveness.

The EU is concerned that the approach could be seen as an alternative to the negotiated carbon cuts Europe believes are needed to ensure emissions do not reach a dangerous level. Critics of the sectoral approach point out that however efficient industries might be, it does not help the climate if inventors keep dreaming up new ways to use energy - like Japan's electrically heated, stereophonic, bottom-washing toilets.

Thanks to gadgets like this, Japan's CO2 emissions have continued to increase even though energy efficiency of individual appliances has improved.

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