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2008年12月17日 (水)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 16(IHT/Asahi: December 17,2008)

EDITORIAL: Curbing climate change


The Kyoto Protocol of 1997, an international agreement to battle global warming, is due to expire in 2012. Nations are now working to establish a new international framework for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in December next year.

But building a global consensus on the new framework has proved a colossal challenge.

The 14th Conference of the Parties (COP 14) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change recently held in Poland failed to produce a major breakthrough and simply left most key issues to be sorted out through negotiations in the coming months.


Just a year is left for the world to hammer out a new climate accord. The world cannot afford to continue pursuing wealthier lifestyles in a way that will leave a seriously damaged global environment to future generations. All countries on this planet share the responsibility to push negotiations forward through intensive efforts to produce an agreement that qualifies as a proud legacy to posterity.


Industrial nations that have been spewing huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere must bear the largest part of the responsibility for securing a deal. But greenhouse gas emissions from China, India and other emerging economies and developing nations are growing rapidly.


The Kyoto Protocol obliges only developed countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. But the post-Kyoto Protocol framework should make sure that the entire world will be committed to reducing global emissions of the heat-trapping gases.


The biggest challenge confronting the countries is how to deal with North-South problems.


At their summit in July at the Lake Toyako resort in Hokkaido, the leaders of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrial nations agreed on a target of halving global emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. But a subsequent meeting of the leaders of 16 major countries, including China and India, failed to reach agreement on any specific emissions reduction target.


Similarly, the recent COP 14 meeting in Poland highlighted a rift between industrialized and developing nations. Many of the developing countries demanded that the rich nations first set their medium-term emissions target for 2020.


Setting medium-term targets is indispensable for persuading emerging and developing countries to join the post-Kyoto Protocol regime. The COP 14 gathering was not meaningless because it at least made this point glaringly evident.


While the European Union has already set a target of cutting emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, Japan has yet to make any commitment to a medium-term goal. U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has promised to return U.S. emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020. But this is not enough.


The United States, Europe and Japan need to come up with a clear medium-term emissions target that can persuade emerging and developing countries to join in.


It is important to ensure that the steps to curb global warming will not hamper efforts to stoke economic growth and reduce poverty in the world. That is especially important in the current global economic crisis. It is hardly surprising that both emerging and developing countries are worried about their futures.


One notable move is the Green Economy Initiative started by the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP). This is an ambitious plan for promoting investment in innovative energy technologies and environmental projects in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating new jobs.


President-elect Obama plans to create jobs through massive investments in clean energy development. The UNEP's green new deal is aimed at promoting such eco-friendly investments on a global scale.


If economic aid and technology transfer from rich nations to the developing world increase significantly, the long-term target of halving emissions by 2050 can become attainable and beneficial for both sides.


As inhabitants of this planet, we must figure out a way to share a cleaner future. The coming year will be the time for us to make some gutsy decisions.



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