ENVIRONMENT: Japan to Take Leadership Role Toward Copenhagen

  • Catherine Makino interviews TETSUO SAITO, Japanese Minister of Environment (tokyo)
  • Inter Press Service

The government is also busy preparing for a major U.N. climate change conference that will take place in Copenhagen in December to craft a framework to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

IPS Correspondent Catherine Makino spoke to Japanese Minister of Environment Tetsuo Saito in Tokyo.

IPS: Critics say it is important for Japan to make itself an environmental power, especially in Copenhagen this December, where governments will come up with a climate agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

Tetsuo Saito: Japanese leadership is important, but so is the participation of all major emitters of green house gas emissions, which needs to be reduced globally in order to overcome the challenge of global warming. Under the Kyoto Protocol, reduction commitments were made by countries emitting only about 30 percent of the world’s total emissions.

IPS: How important is it for developed countries to reach an agreement on cutting emission in Copenhagen?

TS: As we approach Copenhagen, it’s extremely critical to engage America, China and India. To achieve this objective, Japan needs to show leadership for the world, so these countries participate in a new agreement. There isn’t any alternative other than the framework involving those major emitters. That is the only way to save the world and Japan aims to take a leadership role to that end.

IPS: Japan’s decision to cut emissions by 15 percent were criticised by Japanese and international nongovernmental organisation groups for being 'dangerously unambitious.' In fact, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends that developed countries reduce gas emission by 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, or by more than 30 percent from 2005 levels.

TS: I believe Japan’s decision on midterm greenhouse gas reduction targets does not by any means run counter to the scientific requirements set forth by the IPCC. It is duly within the considerations they presented.

IPS: Why did Japan’s Prime Minister Taro Aso use 2005 as a base year when the European Union agreed to cut emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels?

TS: Because the Japanese government decided to coordinate with the United States, which has set its base year as 2005. It’s absolutely critical for the U.S. to join, and we had a coordinated approach with the U.S. in setting our midterm targets.

IPS: What is Japan’s long-term goal?

TS: Japan has decided to make a 60 to 80 percent reduction of green house emissions by 2050 as our long-term target. The mid-term target must serve as a milepost on the way to achieve this long-term target.

IPS: How will Japan accomplish that?

TS: We will raise the ration of renewable energies to 20 percent, the highest level in the world. Solar power will be increased to 20 times current levels and every other new car will be an eco-car, such as the hybrid car.

IPS: Are you in talks with the Petroleum Association of Japan to directly blend gasoline with 10 percent ethanol by 2020?

TS: Yes, we are tying to persuade them to adopt direct blending of ethanol into gasoline. We believe that it is critically important to deliver a biofuel supply without affecting the food supply.

IPS: What technical and financial support is Japan providing to help developing nations cut their green house emissions?

TS: In assisting developing countries’ efforts to reduce emission of green house emissions, Japan established the 'Cool Earth Partnership,' on the scale of 10 billion dollars. Through this, Japan will cooperate actively with developing countries in making efforts to reduce emissions. We will extend the hand of assistance to developing countries suffering climate change impacts. We will give aid and implement other actions for global warming and local environmental problems, such as air and water pollution. The idea is to build social economic infrastructure.

IPS: How many countries are participating in 'Cool Earth Partners?'

TS: Eighty-eight countries and projects have been launched in 44 countries. In the case of Indonesia, we extended 308 million dollars as a Cool Earth Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan.

IPS: You mentioned the Japanese people should look at the possible benefits which can be brought about by the financial crisis.

TS: We now see a chance to transform our economy by the idea of a 'Green New Deal' advocated by U.S. President Barrack Obama. We need to create a system to spur economic growth by focusing on the area of environment.

IPS: What will the cost of global warming be to the world?

TS: We should consider not only the cost of actions against global warming, but also the cost of inaction. For example, damage due to floods will amount to 8.7 trillion yen by the end of this century, if we don’t take measure against Global warming. But this is the cost of preserving our earth. I firmly believe that Japan must tackle the global warming issue.

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service