Confusion over wording endangers Japan’s greenhouse gas commitments
Japan’s ability to meet its Kyoto obligations has been cast into doubt because of a disagreement over terminology.
Instead of basing its plan on reducing greenhouse gases on guidelines issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as other nations have done, Japan and Russia are relying on information from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, saying that policies of afforestation and reforestation can mean replanting trees in areas in which existing trees have been felled. IPCC guidelines, however, state that the two terms refer solely to expanding the area of existing forests, and not simply replanting trees that have been cut down.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan pledged to cut its emissions by 6% on 1990’s level between 2008 and 2012, of which 2.3% would be achieved by energy-saving measures and technological improvements, 3.4% through CO2 absorption by existing forests and 0.3% through absorption by afforested and reforested areas, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported the government as saying.
The Protocol excludes existing wild forest trees from its calculations because they do not represent a new commitment, whereas Japan claims that existing wild forests should be included, provided that the government protects them by not allowing them to be felled. If the government’s method of calculation is not accepted by the conference, the gas-reduction figure for Japanese forests will be 2.7%, instead of 3.7%, meaning that the nation will have to make up the shortfall by increasing its energy-saving measures.
According to an estimate by the International Trade and Industry Ministry, to reduce emissions of greenhouse gas by 0.5% would require the nation to give up television, or to take 2 million vehicles off the road, the Japanese daily newspaper reported on 30 October.
It would appear that the government’s original reduction plan was overly dependent on the vaguely defined term ‘forest’, but now the government will attempt to try and persuade other countries to accept Japan’s definition of the terms, prior to November’s international climate summit on the Kyoto Protocol in The Hague, the newspaper reported.
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