Japan will cut carbon emissions by 15 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, Kyodo news agency said on Wednesday, a target greens and analysts say is not bold enough and could undermine global climate talks.
The world's fifth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter has been under huge pressure from developing nations to opt for deep reductions to ensure a strong outcome from talks for a new global climate pact talks at the end of the year.
But Prime Minister Taro Aso, facing elections within months, needs to balance the needs of industry and voters facing the worst recession since World World Two.
If Aso confirms the target at a 6 p.m. (0900 GMT) news conference, that is equivalent to a cut of 8 percent below Japan's 1990 emission levels, not much more than the 6 percent cut Japan committed itself to under the Kyoto Protocol for the 2008-12 period.
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Prime Minister Aso's reported plan is appalling, said Kim Carstensen, head of WWF's Global Climate Initiative
The new Aso target would mean that Japan effectively gives dirty industries the freedom to pollute without limits for eight years.
The opposition Democratic Party, which leads opinion polls, has said emissions cuts of 25 percent from 1990 were desirable.
It's balanced in light of domestic and global considerations, and balanced in terms of Japan's initial stance going into future negotiations in creating a post-Kyoto framework, Satoshi Hashimoto, an analyst at Mitsubishi Research Institute said of the target.
U.N. climate talks in December in the Danish capital Copenhagen aim to seal a broader climate pact to replace Kyoto from 2013. Japan's choice on a target is seen as an important signal as to the level of ambition by rich nations to fight global warming.
This commitment is not strong enough, said Matthew Clarke, associate professor at the School of International and Political Studies at Deakin University in Melbourne.
Countries such as Japan must be willing to commit to deeper cuts in emissions if they are to encourage developing countries such as India and China to also make cuts to their emissions.
Zhang Haibin, an expert on environmental diplomacy at Peking University in Beijing, agreed.
What Japan proposes is going to have a major impact, because it is one of the major developed countries. And China wants to see it set more ambitious goals than Kyoto if China is going to do more.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan has committed itself to cut emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels to 1.186 billion metric tons on average over the 2008-2012 period, but is struggling to meet the goal.
Unlike the target for the Kyoto pact, proposals for the 2020 target have excluded buying of emissions offsets from abroad.
Instead, they are based on feasible policy incentives and restrictions to cut emissions in Japan by conserving energy in households, using more low-emission cars and equipment and enhancing renewable energy sources.
Some saw the target as a good signal.
This is a positive for Japan's clean energy sector, potentially giving rise to new demand throughout the Japanese economy and helping recharge industry as a whole, said Tetsuya Wadaki, an analyst at Nomura Securities.
The target is also in line with what is being proposed by other rich nations.
The European Union has promised to cut emissions 20 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, equivalent to a 14 percent from 2005 levels, and by 30 percent if other rich nations follow suit.
In the United States, the only major developed nation outside Kyoto, a climate bill recently approved by a congressional panel aimed at a cut of 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.
(Editing by David Fogarty)