KOBE, Japan (AFP) — Japan's environment minister on Sunday urged wider support for a "sectoral" approach on the second day of climate talks amid calls for rich nations to set clear emission cut goals by 2020.
Home to the landmark Kyoto Protocol, Japan hopes to use the three-day talks in Kobe to shape the course of negotiations on a new climate treaty on curbing global warming, eyeing a breakthrough when it hosts the G8 summit in July.
Japan wants support for its "sectoral" approach, in which a country works out its national mitigation target by adding up each industry's gas emissions that could be potentially reduced.
Tokyo believes that, when it comes to setting specific goals, this will be more acceptable to developing countries and those reluctant to have top-down greenhouse gas reduction targets.
"Developing methodologies to set fair targets is an important component to attaining long-term, sustained emission reductions," Japanese Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita said in his keynote speech.
Kamoshita proposed a "Kobe initiative" to his counterparts from the Group of Eight (G8) rich nations and other assembled guests, including Brazil, China and India -- which have fast-growing economies.
Referring to that initiative, he said, "emission reduction potentials through a sectoral approach will provide a scientific basis for negotiations on the post-2012" period, when the Kyoto Protocol's emission cut obligations end.
"In developing countries, there are large and relatively low-cost mitigation opportunities which can be realised through cooperative sectoral approach, with support from developed countries," he said.
Japan's "sectoral" approach has received mixed responses from participating countries, with European nations arguing clearer mid-term reduction targets were essential.
Developing countries also fear Japan's favoured method could be a way for rich countries to shift the burden to poorer nations with less clean industries.
"We welcome the sectoral approach as a method to reach targets, but targets are for developed countries," said Namo Narain Meena, India's environment minister. "We welcome bilateral cooperation, but you cannot use sectoral approaches to bring targets through the back doors."
Indonesian deputy environment minister Masnellyarti Hilman said she was more interested in G8 nations stating their mid-term and long-term emissions targets.
"I hope they (Japan) will take a lead to set a mid-term target," she told reporters. Next would be "the commitment of the developed countries to give the financial and transfer of technology and the capacity building for developing countries."
Japan hopes to use its chairmanship of the G8 industrialised nations to give clearer direction to drafting a post-Kyoto treaty in Copenhagen at the end of 2009, giving parties time to ratify the treaty so it takes effect at the end of 2012.
Under pressure, Japan will likely state in its chairman's conclusion to be released Monday, that its sectoral approach will not be an alternative to setting mid-term goals.
"The minister today explained that Japan's position recognises that an emission trading system (which imposes a cap on emissions) and sectoral approach are not a substitute, they are not alternatives," said UN Environment Programme executive director Achim Steiner.
"So that was very conducive ... because it has become a major point of tension."
German secretary of state for environment Matthias Machnig also said the sectoral approach "cannot be a substitute for mid-term mandatory targets for developed countries."
Leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States agreed at last year's G8 summit in Germany to set a long-term but non-binding goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
UN scientists warn that climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions could put millions of people at risk by century's end.
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