Japan unveiled a new target on Wednesday for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2020, but the plan was slammed by environmentalists and the UN climate chief as leaving the industrial world dangerously short of its pollution goals.
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said in Tokyo the plan was ambitious and in line with efforts by the US and Europe to trim carbon emissions over the next decade. He said Japan calculated its target on a 2005 base year — but environmentalists said that move was designed to deliberately mask the real effect of the Japanese cut.
Environmentalists attending UN climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany, said the reduction amounted only to an 8 percent or 9 percent cut compared with the more widely accepted base line of 1990.
Japan already has committed to reduce its emissions by 6 percent by 2012 under the 12-year-old Kyoto Protocol. Activists said the pledge to cut emissions a further 2 percent over the next eight years “lacked ambition” and could lead to a retreat by other countries.
Yvo de Boer, general secretary of the UN Convention on Climate Change, said emission reduction plans submitted so far leave industrial countries “a long long way from the ambitious reduction scenarios” that scientists say are needed.
He appeared taken aback by the limited scope of the Japanese announcement.
“For the first time in two-and-a-half years in this job, I don’t know what to say,” he said.
When pressed, De Boer said pledges by industrial countries fell far short of the 25 percent to 40 percent reductions in emissions by 2020 that UN scientists say is required to prevent potentially disastrous effects of climate change. Those effects could include a rise in sea levels that will threaten coastal areas, more extreme weather, the extinction of many plant and animal species and the spread of human diseases.
He said Japan’s targets referred only to domestic actions, and he hoped Tokyo will factor in more measures later to further reduce its carbon footprint. Those could include better farming and forestry practices to absorb carbon from the air and buying credits by helping poor countries reduce emissions and deforestation.
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