TOKYO - Japan could weaken its target for a 25 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 if all major emitters do not reach agreement on an ambitious global climate pact, the environment minister said Friday.
Countries are in fierce negotiations before a December 7-18 meeting in Copenhagen for a broader, tougher agreement to fight climate change beyond 2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol ends. The possibility is not zero, Sakihito Ozawa told Reuters in an interview when asked if Japan could change its target, based on 1990 emission levels, if there was no ambitious agreement.
He declined to say what alternative target Japan had in mind.
As environment minister, I want to go ahead with this pledge, but the government announced it with a precondition at the United Nations (climate change summit last month) so of course it could change, he said.
Japan's new government pledged its emissions reduction target when it took power last month, but has said it is premised on a deal on ambitious goals being agreed by major emitters, including China and the United States.
The target, tougher than one set by the previous government, has been part of Japan's aim to play a bigger negotiating role ahead of the U.N.-backed climate talks in Copenhagen, where environment ministers from about 190 nations will gather to hammer out a deal.
Talks so far have stalled over how to share the burden in cutting greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming, and over how rich nations will help developing nations with money and technology to fight climate change.
Ozawa said Japan, the world's fifth-biggest emitter, was prepared to offer substantial new funds for developing countries, including money to kick-start a deal in Copenhagen. The U.N. Climate Change Secretariat wants developed nations to come up with at least $10 billion in initial funding.
But final details of Japan's new funding initiative may not be ready in time for the last formal U.N. negotiating session before the Copenhagen meeting in early November.
Ideas so far for the Hatoyama Initiative under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama include a framework in which developing nations can tap specific technologies from rich countries, with measures to ensure intellectual property rights are protected, Ozawa said.
It would be nice to have a 'matching' system under which developing countries can say they want a certain technology, while developed countries present technology they can provide, and Japan can offer its own too, Ozawa said.
But Japanese manufacturers may not be willing to provide their cutting-edge technology very easily, so it's hard to say how it will work out.
Ozawa, a former banker and close ally of Hatoyama, said he was working hard to convince businesses at home that Japan's fight against climate change would be a long-term positive for the economy.
Analysts say corporate worries over costs to meet tough emissions targets could grow as Japan introduces steps such as a domestic emissions trading system with compulsory volume caps and an environment tax.
I realize that conditions will be tough for industries such as electricity and steel, Ozawa said.
We may have to heed their concerns, for example when starting the emissions trading system and environment tax.
(Editing by Michael Watson)