Environment ministers from Group of Eight rich nations and other major greenhouse gas emitters will meet in Japan’s western city of Kobe from May 24 to 26 to try to build momentum for talks on issues including long-term targets to reduce the emissions that cause global warming.
The United Nations says a new climate change treaty must be in place by the end of 2009 to give countries time to ratify it before the 2012 expiry of the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges 37 developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by an average of at least 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
GROUP OF EIGHT
G8 leaders agreed at last year’s summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, to consider seriously a target of halving global emissions by 2050; Japan, the European Union and Canada are backing that goal.
China is on course to overtake the United States as the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide gas, and may have done so already, but it says it will not agree to fixed caps on emissions because on a per capita and historical basis its output is far below that of developed nations.
Beijing argues that it should not have to sacrifice growth that rich countries enjoyed in the past, and wants the West to step up the transfer of technology that would make its economic rise less carbon-intensive. A significant portion of its emissions are also the result of making goods for export, and China says consumers of those products should bear some responsibility for the greenhouse gasses created during their manufacture.
The EU says any warming of the climate should be limited to no more than an average 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels to avoid warming, which it says will be dangerous and induce irreversible changes.
The bloc aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, to obtain 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020 and to derive 10 percent of liquid fuel from biofuels.
India will unveil a national plan to deal with the threat of global warming in June, but it will not commit to any emission targets that risk slowing economic growth, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and environment officials have said.
India says it must use more energy to lift its population from poverty and that its per-capita emissions are a fraction of those in rich nations, which have burnt fossil fuels unhindered since the Industrial Revolution.
Japan is debating whether to set a national target for cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, officials say, and media have reported that Tokyo would announce in June a target of cutting its emissions by 60-80 percent to boost its leadership credentials as host of the G8 summit in July.
Tokyo is pushing a “sectoral approach” to emissions goals, with curbs set for particular industries such as steel or cement that could be added up to a national target.
Developing countries have objected to this approach, arguing that the curbs could throttle their energy-intensive industrial growth, while the EU insists this method should not be a substitute for ambitious national targets.
President George W. Bush rejected the Kyoto pact in 2001, saying it would cost U.S. jobs and unfairly omitted 2012 emissions targets for developing nations such as China and India.
The Bush administration has agreed to take part in talks on a long-term treaty even though many details will be agreed after Bush steps down in January 2009. The main U.S. presidential candidates say they are committed to stepping up U.S. action.
In April, Bush unveiled a plan to halt the growth of U.S. emissions by 2025, toughening a previous goal of braking the growth of emissions by 2012. The United States and China are the top emitters. The proposal has drawn criticism from environmental groups for letting emissions continue to grow for 17 years, although some welcomed it as a first firm U.S. ceiling.