Environment ministers from the world's richest countries and a clutch of fast-growing economies kicked off talks yesterday to try to inject fresh momentum into efforts to tackle climate change.
Japan, home to the landmark Kyoto Protocol, hopes to use its chairmanship of the G8 to give clearer direction to drafting a post-Kyoto treaty by the end of next year.
During three days of meetings in Kobe between the ministers, Japan hopes to shape the course of negotiations on a new climate treaty on curbing global warming, eyeing a breakthrough when it hosts the July 7 to July 9 G8 summit.
Ministers and officials from the G8 countries, along with countries including Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Australia, South Korea and South Africa have gathered to try and pave the way to an agreement.
“We would like to send a message encouraging developing countries to easily tackle climate change,” Japanese Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita told reporters.
“We also want to clarify G8 countries’ stance on climate change during the environmental ministers’ meeting,” Kamoshita said.
Ahead of the meeting, international aid group Oxfam voiced concern that political momentum to tackle climate change appears to be flagging under Japan’s leadership.
“The endless debate about ‘considering’ reducing emissions is long gone. We need carbon cuts and we need this to happen now,” Oxfam campaigner Takumo Yamada said in a statement.
“Japan must overcome its internal squabbling and show the same leadership on this as the Germans did last year. Anything less would be a clear step backward in the fight to combat global warming,” Yamada said.
The Kyoto Protocol’s obligations for rich nations to slash greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming expire at the end of 2012. UN scientists warn that climate change could put millions of people at risk by century’s end.
Leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US agreed at the G8 summit last year in Germany to set a non-binding goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
However, Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has warned wealthy countries are shirking their duty to take a strong lead in fighting global warming.
“We really need a push now from G8 countries to show leadership. I am not seeing this push yet,” the UN’s top climate official said in an interview in Paris on Friday.
Japan has sought wider support for its “sectoral” approach, in which each industry is judged by its efficiency.
The Japanese government believes this option is more attractive to developing countries and those reluctant to have a top-down target figure imposed on them.
However the EU has already introduced a “cap-and-trade” system, proposing ambitious global emission reductions of 25 percent to 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.