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Japan announces 15% emission cut for 2020 from 2005
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Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso announced Wednesday a 15 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels as Japan's midterm target for 2020.

Aso told a televised press conference the target is "extremely ambitious" as the figure does not take into account emission cuts that can be achieved through forest absorption of CO2 and emissions trading overseas.

"The target exceeds the midterm targets of Europe, which stands at a 13 percent reduction from the 2005 level, and that of the Obama administration of the U.S., which is a 14 percent reduction from the same year," he said.

The 15 percent reduction is equivalent to 8 percent cut from the levels in 1990 -- the benchmark used in the U.N. negotiations. Japan has seen a steep rise in emissions from 1990 to 2005.

Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Japan agreed to curb emissions of greenhouse gases by six percent by the end of 2012 over 1990 levels.

The target is bigger than a previously reported target of a 14 percent reduction, but still fall short of the expectation of environmental groups and many other countries, which believed the goal is too mild compared with the European Union's slash.

The European Union has said it would cut emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels, or by 30 percent if others set similar goals. But its emission has been gradually going down since 1990.

The target of United States, unbound by the Kyoto Protocol, would mean almost no emission cuts from its 1990 levels.

Aso argued "it's important the countries are making efforts to cut emission, rather than to discuss which year should be the starting point for calculation."

He added Japan's target had given due consideration to how much Japanese industries and average households can take, and balanced the country's long-term goal of emission cut by 2050.

Local media reported earlier the leaders from the electric and steel industries asked Aso to set the midterm target for 2020 at a 4 percent increase from 1990 levels, amid pressure caused partly by the financial crisis.

He said Japan will "exert every effort" to develop and promote widespread use of innovative technologies and nuclear power as a way of achieving Tokyo's long-term target of cutting emissions by 60 to 80 percent by 2050.

Meanwhile, Aso insisted developing countries including China and India should "take their responsibilities ...if harsh responsibility is imposed on only Japan, Japanese companies and factories will merely shift to countries that act less responsibly. "

China has argued that developing countries are victims of global warming created by many years of cumulative emissions by the developed countries in their process of industrialization, and is doing its own part to cut emission.

Japan, the world's No. 2 economy, is the fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter.

World's major countries are scheduled to form a post-Kyoto Protocol framework on emission cut at a key U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen in December.

(Xinhua News Agency June 10, 2009)

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