Japan Calls for New System to Manage Global Environment

WASHINGTON ~ Japanese Finance Minister Koji Omi called this week for a new and practical system to manage the global environment that went beyond the Kyoto Protocol and included the United States, China and India.

He said that the Kyoto Protocol covered only about 30 percent of the world’s total current carbon emissions and that the ratio was projected to decline further as emissions from developing countries increased.

Named after Japan’s former capital where it was negotiated in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol is a landmark treaty that mandates cuts in greenhouse gas by developed countries.

But the United States and Australia have boycotted the Kyoto Protocol, saying it is unfair because it makes no demands of fast-growing developing countries such as China and India.

Speaking at a forum of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, Omi said “it is important to go beyond the Kyoto Protocol to create a new, practical and effective framework in which all countries, including the United States, China and India, will participate.”

He called on the United States, the world’s most powerful nation, both economically and militarily, to play a “critical role” to tackle the issue as well as other challenges, such as rapidly depleting natural resources and an energy crunch, terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation and security balance.

“Japan would like to encourage this leadership and we are willing to throw our support behind the US,” he said. “Without American leadership, these difficult tasks cannot be accomplished.”

The United States is the world’s largest source of greenhouse gas, emitting 36.1 percent of the total in 1990.

Omi, a key political figure and one of the most influential in the field of science and technology in Japan, said it was “time for humankind to change its approach by establishing a new set of principles” so that people could “coexist peacefully and prosper in this new environment.

“We need to strike a good balance between economic activity and environmental protection in order to ensure the continued existence of humankind,” said the 75-year-old economic expert and most experienced member in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet.

Omi said that in order to ensure sustainable world economic growth, concerns about the environment as well as stability of energy supplies should be addressed.

“When we look at these issues, I believe that we should think 100 years ahead. Oil and other energy sources may have dried (up) by then,” he said.

Technological breakthroughs may lead to alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-energy “but it is unlikely that those sources can play a major role,” he said.

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