Japan, EU leaders Call for "Highly Ambitious" Climate Goals

Leaders of Japan and the European Union called Wednesday for "highly ambitious and binding" global targets to fight climate change, seeking a breakthrough at July's Group of Eight summit.

View of Danube river in Vienna, Australia. (AFP Photo)

In an annual meeting, the two sides also called for urgent action to cope with rising global food prices, warning that they could worsen poverty in developing countries and drag down the world economy.

The talks come ahead of the July 7-9 summit of the Group of Eight rich nations in Japan, which the host nation hopes will shape the course of negotiations to reach a post-Kyoto Protocol deal by the end of 2009 on curbing global warming.

The G8 summit must be "a real moment of breakthrough," European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

In a joint statement, Fukuda, Barroso and Prime Minister Janez Jansa of Slovenia, the current EU president, said "a highly ambitious and binding international approach is required to deal with the scale and urgency of the climate change challenge."

The Kyoto Protocol's obligations for rich nations to slash greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming expire at the end of 2012.

Barroso hailed the joint statement as a "convergence" in positions between the European Union and Japan.

"What we reached today was very important. There must be binding targets," Barroso told a joint press conference.

But the Japan-EU statement did not give a specific figure for binding cuts.

The European Union has proposed global emission reductions of 25 to 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels in a bid to stem global warming, which UN scientists warn could put millions of people at risk by century's end.

Japan has joined the United States in saying it is too early to set numbers for future emission cuts.

But, stung by criticism from environmentalists, Japan said earlier this year that it would set its own national target for emissions reductions after 2012. The joint statement with the EU backed setting national reduction goals.

Fukuda said he spoke to the EU leaders about Japan's controversial call for a "sectoral" approach on global warming, in which each industry is judged by its efficiency.

"I believe there was an understanding shown from the EU towards our approach, which will be effective in ensuring fairness in setting national targets," Fukuda said.

Developing nations have charged that the proposal is vague and could be used as a backhand way to legally bind them to embrace expensive green technology.

Japan is lagging in meeting its Kyoto obligations as its economy recovers from recession in the 1990s. Some industry leaders say that Kyoto is unfair as Japan already improved efficiency during the oil crises of the 1970s.

The United States is the only major industrial nation to reject Kyoto, with President George W. Bush arguing that it is unfair by making no demands of fast-growing emerging economies.

But all three candidates to succeed Bush have pledged tougher action against global warming, meaning a decision on the next global goal in emission cuts will likely wait until the next US administration takes office in January.

In their joint statement, Japan and the EU also called for action to address spiralling food and oil prices, which "could slow down the growth in the global economy and have negative effects on developed and developing nations."

They also voiced concerns about Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes, called for military-ruled Myanmar to move to a "legitimate, civilian government" and pledged to look at human rights concerns in Sri Lanka.

Source: AFP

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