Japan Floats Idea of Industry Energy Benchmarks
TOKYO -- Japan on Tuesday floated the idea of industry energy-saving benchmarks and urged households to do their bit as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to lead the fight against global warming at this week's Group of Eight summit.
Abe has proposed halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 but Japan is struggling to meet its own target of cutting emissions by 6 percent by 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol's first phase ends.
"There is still some distance between the EU and the United States, and that is precisely why I think Japan should take the initiative toward a direction which all countries can basically accept," Abe told reporters before leaving for the summit on Tuesday, which is also World Environment Day.
But the battle against global warming is not going quite so smoothly at home, where Japan's emissions were 14 percent above its Kyoto goals as of March 2006.
Trade Minister Akira Amari told reporters on Tuesday that energy-saving targets should be set for business sectors but steered clear of specifics.
The Nikkei business daily said this meant numerical targets but Amari said the proposal was more likely to focus on non-binding benchmarks for industries to use as a guide.
Japanese business groups have dragged their feet on previous energy proposals, such as a carbon tax, out of concern for their economic impact.
A trade ministry official said a committee would meet next week to set standards for measuring industry energy use but that targets were not on the agenda at this point.
"We are not setting a numerical CO2 (carbon dioxide) reductions or energy-saving target on the private sector," he added.
SEEING THE LIGHT
Given the reluctance of industry, the government is now looking keenly at households, whose CO2 emissions in 2005 were a worrying 28.8 percent above 1990 levels partly due to an increase in private computer use.
According to the 2007 environmental white paper issued on Tuesday, a four-person household could cut their CO2 emissions by up to 40 percent by switching to newer, energy-saving appliances.
Abe told the Nikkei in a recent interview that one of the government's main short-term goals was making its citizens more aware of the issue and enlisting them to do all they can.
"We need to give people information on global warming in a way they can understand, make them sense that it's a danger close to them," he was quoted as saying.
To get the message across, the government on Tuesday placed full-page ads in newspapers featuring Abe, in a casual shirt and slippers, changing a lightbulb to a more efficient model as his wife, Akie, looks on.
"One person, one kilo of CO2 reduction a day," the ad urges. (Additional reporting by Linda Sieg and Ikuko Kao)