Climate talks snag over Japan proposal


Delegates working on the negotiating agenda for a sweeping global warming pact, clashed over Japan's push for early discussions of industry-specific limits on carbon dioxide emissions, delegates and environmentalists attending the UN Climate Change talks in Bangkok, said.

Representatives from 163 countries were hammering out the working plan for talks meant to lead to a climate change agreement by the end of next year, aimed at preventing rising temperatures from triggering environmental disaster.

The five-day UN-sponsored discussions were scheduled to end on Friday 4th April. Delegates disagreed, however, over how soon they should schedule in-depth talks on Japan's so-called 'sectoral approach'. A draft schedule circulated on Friday showed such talks 'pencilled-in' as soon as June.

Under the Japanese proposal, certain businesses - such as steel and cement making - would set industrywide targets for energy efficiency. Proponents, including the United States, say this would ensure fair competition among steel makers across national boundaries. It would also allow Japan to take advantage of its already high standards of energy efficiency.

Developing nations and environmentalists, however, say they don't have enough information about Japan's proposal. Some fear it could be used to impose reduction targets on certain industries in poorer nations, while allowing rich countries to do less to battle global warming. "The developing countries, as a whole, are very suspicious of how that concept is being used" - said Angela Anderson, director the Pew Environmental Group's global warming campaign.

Japan wants the talks as soon as possible, while developing nations are eager to hear, first, about what industrialised countries will do to cut their emissions of carbon dioxide and other 'greenhouse' gases blamed for global warming and how much money they will spend to help poor nations adapt to climate change.

"That's causing tension" - said Ian Fry, representative of the island nation of Tuvalu.

Japan, which is struggling to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, is campaigning to put its approach at the center of a future warming agreement to take effect when the Kyoto pact ends in 2012. Kyoji Komachi, Japan's top negotiator in Bangkok, said Japan was not using the proposal to force developing countries into the same emissions targets as wealthy industrialised nations.

"We want an in-depth discussion - that's all we're looking for" - Komachi said. While he denied Japan was insisting on specific timing, he added - "We would like to see the discussion early on."

Scientists say the world needs quick action to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions to control the rise in global temperatures, but nations are split over how to go about that.

Developing nations say the industrialised world is to blame for the problem - so, rich countries should make the biggest cuts while letting poorer nations expand their economies. Some industrialised countries - such as the US and Japan - however, say major developing nations like China and India need to control emissions as well.

Also on Thursday (3rd April), Norway and the European Union called for tougher global regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from ships and airplanes, saying they should be included in any new climate pact alongside pollutants from power plants and agriculture.

However, Thailand and others opposed the plan, saying it could hurt their economies. Some, including Australia and China, felt the issue was already being tackled by the industries' respective associations - the International Civil Aviation Organization and the UN's International Maritime Organization.