Japan divided on future greenhouse gas emissions

Sep 11, 1997 02:00 AM

The Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) deems it difficult to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that cause global warming below the 1990 level by 2010, ministry sources said.
MITI arrived at the conclusion based on the projected energy supply-demand balance and progress in energy-saving efforts in Japan, and in its final proposal it is expected to call for keeping gas emissions at the 1990 level, sources told. They said the ministry is still consulting with industrial sectors over what goal Japan should offer to attain by the 2010 deadline when it attends the third conference of signatories to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Kyoto in December.
MITI's latest judgement is in stark contrast with the emission control targets the Foreign Ministry and the Environment Agency want to see, clouding the prospects for policy co-ordination among the three in the run-up to the Kyoto parley.
While the Foreign Ministry contends Japan should commit itself to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 5 % in light of international circumstances, the Environment Agency says it is possible to set a 6-8 % cut target.
According to MITI's estimates, based on the assumption that the country's economy will grow at an annual rate of about 2%, saving of energy equivalent to about 314.5 million barrels of crude oil will be needed to keep emissions of CO2 at the 1990 level.
The amount of energy that needs to be conserved in this scenario is almost equivalent to that Japan's households and passenger cars currently consume annually.
To achieve this moderate goal, the nation will have to depend more on nuclear energy and such new energy sources as solar power, as well as take drastic energy conservation measures in industrial, household and transport sectors, the sources said.
MITI believes it is almost impossible to curb and cut emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases below the 1990 level by 2010, partly due to the political difficulty of constructing new nuclear power plants, the sources said.
They also cited as other major stumbling blocks to emission control the delay in efforts to introduce alternative energy sources and the lack of public awareness of energy conservation.
The Foreign Ministry is likely to propose a 5% cut at coming consultations with MITI and the Environment Agency as it believes Japan should set a numerical target that will be acceptable internationally, ministry sources said.
The Environment Agency is also bound to urge a considerable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 based on a study report compiled by a state-run institute saying Japan will be able to reduce emissions by up to 7.6 %, agency sources said.
The Kyoto conference, scheduled for Dec. 1-10, is expected to adopt a protocol or similar legal instrument urging reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2000.
So far, only the European Union (EU) has made public its proposal, which partly calls for developed countries to slash their emissions by 15 % from 1990 levels by 2010.
The 15-member EU wants developed nations to accept numerical targets to curb and reduce emissions so as to prevent global warming from spreading and to encourage developing countries to join the effort.

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