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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #280: February 15, 2005

Kyoto Host Japan Still Far From Greenhouse Targets

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Kyoto Host Japan Still Far From Greenhouse Targets
(by Elaine Lies) Reuters


The Kyoto Protocol is finally taking effect on February 16 2005.

"The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change" was signed on April 28 1998 in New York. It was to take effect upon critical mass of those countries responsible for CO2 emission ratifies the Protocol.

Japan, after fierce discussions domestically, accepted the terms in June 2002, shortly after the U.K. and followed by Canada in December of that year among the major countries. By that time, President Bush had declared the U.S. would not ratify the Protocol, and by simple arithmetic, it became clear that unless Russia signs, the Convention would fail.

In November 2004, the Russian President Putin finally decided to go with it, to suffice the critical mass required to validate the Convention, and for it to become effective three month later, on February 16 2005.

This Protocol essentially obligates the developed countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" to 5 per cent below 1990 levels after 2008. The cut-down rate is specified for each country, and among the largest are 8% for the EU 8%, 7% for the U.S., and 6% for Japan and Canada.

For Japan, this means reducing emissions by 14% from the fiscal 2003 levels. The Japanese government is due to finalize a program for meeting that goal by introducing, among other steps, an environment tax, although the planned tax is fiercely opposed by industry. Other ideas are being tossed around, but apparently no one has a good grip on the situation, and the government seems to be at a loss about how to meet the target. The current trend suggests that Japan's greenhouse gas emissions will rise more than 20% above the fiscal 1990 level by fiscal 2010, as both offices and homes continue to use ever more energy and emissions from cars remain on the rise. Plans to shift to nuclear power has bogged down due to series of accidents and mishandling of the incidents, which invited the public's rage.

As such, the reluctance of the U.S. is to a certain extent understandable the Japanese. President Bush does not like the Protocol because the developing countries are not required to reduce their emissions. And he is not talking about just the really poor ones. Countries such as China and India that are becoming main sources of greenhouse gases are considered developing countries and are off the hook. The EU can meet the target easily because of the inclusion of the Eastern Europe, whereby scrapping the stale equipment and investing in new ones would increase productivity and bring about prosperity with less pollution. Russia, because of the stagnating economy, is said to have already accomplished the required levels, whereby future growth will be based on new investments and technologies less hostile to environment.

So President Bush may be correct that it is unfair for the U.S., and Japan - though he has not named Japan in this context specifically, which have endeavored and already accomplished sophisticated pollution control systems, to bear disproportionate levels of burden.

But others, especially the developing countries have their say, too. Most of the greenhouse gas emissions that accumulated in the last century originated in industrialized countries. On a per capita basis, emissions by developing countries are only one-20th those of the U.S. and one-10th those of Japan. It may therefore not be "fair" to expect developing countries to assume the same level of obligation. The 1992 Climate Change Convention recognizes this and stipulates that responsibilities of individual countries are "common but differentiated."

The 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Kenyan Deputy Environment Minister Wangari Maathai, arrived in Japan on 14th to visit Kyoto for a reception on 16th to celebrate the Kyoto Protocol's coming into effect. It may not for everyone to follow her steps in the devotion to attain healthy natural environment, but the leaders of the giant economy, the U.S., needs to become aware of the responsibilities they have in their hands for the future of the whole population of the world, and instead of denouncing and fleeing from the only meaningful framework so far, should actively participate in the accord, upon which they may assert whatever they deem necessary.

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