Tokyo: The world’s top greenhouse gas polluters will try to work out ways to curb carbon emissions from industries and fund cleaner energy projects for poorer nations when they gather in Japan from Friday.
The Group of Twenty (G-20), ranging from top polluters the US and China to Indonesia, Brazil and South Africa, emit around 78% of mankind’s greenhouse gases.
Pressure is growing on these nations to work out a global pact to halt and then reverse growing emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for global warming.
“I think that all countries want to move this process forward. All countries want to see an advance in the negotiations,” Yvo de Boer, the UN’s top climate change official, said of the UN-led talks.
Pall of doom: A coal-powered electricity plant near Gelsenkirchen in Germany. The G-20 countries, including the US, Germany and China, emit about 78% of mankind’s greenhouse gases.
The three-day G-20 meeting of environment and energy officials in Chiba, near Tokyo, comes after world nations agreed on the Indonesian island of Bali last December to launch two years of UN-led talks on a global climate pact.
The deal must be agreed by the end of 2009 to replace the Kyoto Protocol and is aimed at fighting more intense droughts, rising seas and crop failures.
“If the G-20 meeting could agree on the 2020 emission reductions range for the group of industrialized countries as a whole, that would really help the process move forward,” de Boer said.
At a meeting in Vienna last August, rich countries agreed to consider emission cuts ranging from 25-40% below 1990 levels as a non-binding starting point for their work on the global pact to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.
Japan, also host of the Group of Eight (G-8) leading nations’ summit this year, backs a 50% cut in emissions by 2050.
But last year’s G-8 host Germany failed to convince other members to make firm numerical commitments and de Boer said mid-century emission targets were of little help to industries wanting to make clean-energy investments soon.
Many countries, particularly poorer nations, balk at the idea of fixed emission targets. They say rich nations must take the lead by cutting their own emissions more deeply and paying for cleaner energy projects the developing world can’t afford.
G-20 talks host Japan, the world’s fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter, believes part of the solution is backing sectoral caps for industries such as steel makers and power firms. But this has had a mixed response.
“If you dig a little deeper, then there is still quite a fundamentally different understanding as to how those kinds of sectoral approaches could work,” de Boer, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, said.
De Boer said, “Japan perhaps much more favours the model whereby you take the most efficient plant of a certain kind as a benchmark and expect the rest of the sector to work towards that. Whereas countries like China and India are much more interested in an incremental approach, whereby you look at the situation as it is at the moment and then try and build and improve on that.”
China, the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter after the US, in the past has opposed sectoral caps.
But an industry source, who declined to be named, said recent meetings with officials suggested Beijing was preparing for the possible introduction of some kind of a sectoral cap scheme.
The meeting is also set to discuss a multilateral fund to help developing nations fight climate change.
The US, Britain and Japan have already pledged support for the fund, and Japan also announced its own $10 billion (Rs39,300 crore then) scheme in January.
Global conservation group WWF said the US, the only industrialized nation not to have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, remained an obstacle.
“The US is the biggest roadblock and a new government will be a big help,” said Stephan Singer, head of WWF’s energy policy in Europe, adding, “I still think this year the G-8 may not come out with a groundbreaking agreement.”
The Bush administration, though, has recently said it backed binding emission goals if everyone supported them, a shift from once refusing to even discuss such goals.
Chisa Fujioka in Tokyo and Emma Graham-Harrison in Beijing contributed to this story.