No more Kyotos: Japan wants softer emissions target

When the European Union (EU) officials negotiated the climate treaty that became the Kyoto Protocol, they did three clever things.

First, in the 1995 “Berlin Mandate,” they promised that developing countries would be exempt from binding emissions limits. This seemed to mean that Kyoto would be cost-free for developing countries while penalizing energy-intensive manufacture in industrialized countries, boosting exports from the former at the expense of the latter. However, not two years after Kyoto went into effect, and before the first Kyoto compliance period (2008-2012) even began, the EU and U.S. pols like Lieberman and Warner were calling for carbon tariffs against goods exported from countries, like China and India, that refuse to accept binding limits on their greenhouse gas emissions. The Berlin Mandate was always a “bait and switch” ploy, but now this should be evident to everyone.

A second clever move was to invite Japan to play host to the negotiations. Representatives from more than 160 nations convened in Japan’s ancient capital city, Kyoto, in November-December 1997. The EU crowd knew that the honorable Japanese could not possibly reject an agreement negotiated in Kyoto, however detrimental to Japan’s economic interests the treaty might be.

The third clever move was to negotiate a treaty with 1990 as the baseline year. That gave a huge advantage to Britain, where emissions fell dramatically when, for non-environmental reasons, the nation switched its electric power sector from government-subsidized coal to free-market natural gas; and to Germany, where emissions also plummetted when, after reunification, it shut down obsolete power plants and factories in the former East Germany.

But Japan may be fed up and unwilling to submit to further manipulation by the EU. Yesterday, Takao Kitabata, vice-minister of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, said Japan will push for an easier emissions reduction target in the next greenhouse gas limitation treaty, reports the International Herald Tribune. Kitabata said Japan will push to set the base year for 2005 in the successor treaty to Kyoto.

No more Kyotos: Japan wants softer emissions target

International Herald Tribune, 24 March 2008:

The Associated Press – Monday, March 24, 2008 TOKYO: Japan will push for an easier target for reducing greenhouse gases in the next international pact on global warming than in the previous one, a top bureaucrat said Monday.

The Kyoto global warming pact requires nations to cut emissions below 1990 levels, but critics say that is too difficult because emissions in many countries have risen dramatically since then.

Instead, Japan will push to set the base year for 2005 in an agreement that is meant to take effect when Kyoto expires in 2012, said Takao Kitabata, vice-minister of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Kitabata argued 1990 levels are too easy to meet for industrial nations of the European Union, which has absorbed Eastern European countries whose emissions dropped in the 1990s. The EU backs continuing with 1990 as the base year.

“Comparisons with 1990 levels are extremely unfair, and that is the Japanese government’s stance,” Kitabata told reporters. “It would be fair to set 2005 as the base year.”

Kitabata, the top bureaucrat at the ministry, also argued that Japan accepted unfairly tough conditions in the Kyoto accord in 1997. He called for a more equitable burden-sharing in the next pact.

“What happened in Kyoto was that we were forced to swallow disadvantageous conditions for diplomatic reasons,” he said.

Kitabata also said that having 1990 as the base year “would be also difficult to obtain support from China, India and other emerging nations because that would be an enormous burden for them.”

The Kyoto Protocol requires 36 industrialized countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

The United States is the only major industrialized nation to remain outside Kyoto, arguing such cuts would hurt its economy. Washington also says the pact is unfair because it doesn’t oblige major emitters among developing countries, such as China and India, to make reductions.

Japan is struggling to meet its Kyoto obligation of 6 percent cuts. While Tokyo has called for reducing global emissions by 50 percent by 2050, it has not yet set a firm base year for judging such a cut.

The United States and Japan are calling on China and other developing nations to assume a greater burden for reducing greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, but developing countries say wealthy countries should take more responsibility because they industrialized first.