Japan to meet Kyoto goal with extra measures: panel
By Risa Maeda and Chisa Fujioka
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will be able to cut as much greenhouse gas emissions as it promised under the Kyoto Protocol if additional measures, mainly extra voluntary agreements with industries and more energy conservation by households, are carried out, a top government panel said.
A joint panel on climate change under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Environment finalized additional measures on Friday to cut emissions as the Kyoto period starts next year.
The measures are aimed at enhancing current government plans in place since April 2005, which the panel's review in September showed were not enough to meet Japan's commitments to cut emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels over the 2008-2012 period.
Given the panel's proposal, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and his cabinet are set to revise the current plans by the end of March. Progress by Japan is critical to the success of the protocol as U.N.-led talks on a post-Kyoto pact have just begun.
Despite a rift on some points among panel members, such as whether to introduce a cap-and-trade system of emissions, it is time to move on, said panel head Yoichi Kaya.
"There's a time limit. We should hand it in now," Kaya, director general of the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth, said at the end of the panel's meeting.
Friday's list of measures would help Japan cut roughly 35 to 36 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent a year, said Yutaka Fujiwara, a METI official responsible for issues concerning the environment and the economy.
The September review of existing measures showed that in the fiscal year beginning in April 2010 Japan would have to cut an additional 20-34 million tons of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases in order to meet the commitments.
The estimated shortage was mainly because of a sharp increase in emissions from 1990 levels by service companies and households and a slower than planned usage of renewable energy sources.
Japan is already among the world's most energy efficient countries so major industries, such as steel makers and electric power firms, oppose mandatory measures to cut emissions.
The existing measures include the electric power industry's agreement with the government to cut CO2 output per kilowatt hour of electricity by 20 percent from current levels.
Also on the existing list are more efficient use of energy by the manufacturing, transport and household sectors and promotion of renewable energy.
Friday's measures rely on additional voluntary agreements by a total 21 industries, such as chemicals, cement and paper, with an estimated reduction totaling some 18 million tons of CO2 equivalent a year.
While some service companies, such as consumer electronics retailers, have come up with new voluntary agreements, schools and hospitals are expected to follow suit.
The measures also rely on the public to reduce emissions by up to 10.5 million metric tons of CO2 a year.
"We could impose more aggressive measures. But it's not ripe yet because our situations are not that bad yet if we carry out the additional measures," said panel member Naohito Asano, law professor at Fukuoka University in southern Japan.
"We're calling for national action now," he said.
The government launched a project called "Team Minus Six Percent" in 2005 in which ordinary citizens pledge to take action to fight global warming.
Members now number nearly 2 million individuals and 16,800 groups.