Skip to content

Japan announces emissions target, outcry follows

June 10, 2009
Immediate backlash after Japan announces emissions target
The conference is buzzing. As the Chair was making concluding comments at a major session this morning, the Japanese delegate buzzed in to make a final intervention*. The delegate announced that he had just received word from his home government that the President of Japan, Taro Aso, had decided on a mid-term emissions reduction target. I was looking for a power outlet at the time, but I quickly turned up the volume on my receiver so I could hear the announcement from the balcony.
Over the last few days, there has been much speculating here in Bonn as to when the Japanese would make their announcement and what it would be.
*’Intervention’ means comment or speech in UN-speak.
In a press conference, Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF’s climate initiative, called switch from 1990 to 2005 baselines a “smokescreen of figures” to that today’s announcement is only a 2% stronger than Japan’s commitment through the Kyoto Protocol of 6% reduction by on 1990 levels by 2012.
If Japan intends to obscure the numbers, it hasn’t confused the major media reporters. Articles from the WSJ, NYT, and BBC all report the baseline switch. Nevertheless, these articles explain the baseline issue in the second or later paragraphs, so the 15% message is still the most clear and visible.
On yesterday, Geoffrey Lean called the Bonn climate talks “a dialogue of the deaf”. We’ll see if Japans listens to this message.
My Questions
1) Why does the press listen to these people?
2) Is “slash” really the right term to describe the 14% cut planned by the U.S.?
Check photoshelter for photos of the press conference before posting.

As the Chair was giving concluding comments in a major session this morning, the Japanese delegate signalled to make a final intervention. (‘Intervention’ means speech in UN-speak.)

The Japanese delegate said he just received word that Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso decided on a mid-term emissions reduction target. I was looking for a power outlet on the balcony at the time, but I quickly abandoned my search, turned up my headset volume, and listened. The rest of my afternoon was spent keeping track of the youth and NGO reaction.

Over the last few days, there’s been lots of speculating here in Bonn about when the Japanese PM would decide on a target. Since Japan is both a technological leader and one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters, Japan’s reduction targets have significant consequences for the climate negotiations. Their target sets a bar for other developed and developing nations.

The Prime Minister decided on a 15% emissions reduction on 2005 levels by 2020 without counting international offsets. That’s equivalent to an 7-8% reduction on 1990 levels, the baseline used in the Kyoto Protocol. Why use different baselines? In a press conference this afternoon, Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF‘s climate initiative, called the switch from a 1990 to 2005 baseline a “smokescreen of figures” intended to hide that the new targets are only 2% stronger than Japan’s previous Kyoto commitment of a 6% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012. Can Japan even hit the Kyoto target, considering that in 2005 Japan’s emissions were 8% higher than 1990 levels?

If Japan intended to obscure the numbers by changing the baseline, it didn’t confuse all the major media agencies. Articles from the WSJNYTBBC, and the Financial Times reported the baseline swap and the sharp criticism from youth and environmental NGOs. On the other hand, USA Today reported the targets as “ambitious” and neglected to mention the NGO outcry. If all you read was the USA Today article, you missed a lot of the action on the ground here in Bonn.

From the

Ad by, published in the Nikkei

Japan has been under pressure to declare a target for some time. Last week, an ad appeared in the Nikkei depicting President Aso as a manga character fending off climate change and the economic downturn with a 25% emissions reduction on 2005 levels by 2020. In the Financial Times, a front-page ad highlighted a recent poll that determined over 60% of the Japanese public supported a strong emissions target. But the pressure wasn’t off today after the announcement. Youth activists were waiting at the doors of the meeting room with mock-“gougais”, the Japanese versions of EXTRA! press releases. Within minutes of the Japanese delegates’ announcement, the mock news release showed up on every table in the lobby and dining areas. Soon after, it was in the hands of hundreds of delegates. The humorous release reported the widespread embarassment of the Japanese public upon announcement of such an unambitious emissions reduction target.

George W Aso in press conference

At an afternoon press conference, a group of youth took the stage to present a special Fossil of the Day award, the award given to the delegation most successful at obstructing progress towards a just and effective Copenhagen treaty. To Japan, they presented a Bento Box full of coal and a banner-size portrait of George Bush and Taro Aso’s faces blended together, linking Aso’s emissions target to Bush’s lack of climate leadership during his presidency.

On Grist yesterday, Geoffrey Lean called the Bonn climate talks “a dialogue of the deaf”. But today, James Kanter (NYT Green Inc.) called the backlash at the Japanese reduction target a “tsunami of criticisms”. Can an island nation ignore a tsunami? What’s the effect of all this noise for the whole negotiating process? Only time will tell if Japan and other delegation teams are listening.


Picture 3

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Phil permalink
    June 10, 2009 10:34 pm

    Anthony and Cantril,

    Well, I was in the barbershop today–yes–barbershop (Angelo’s Hair for Men). There was considerable discussion of the climate change and sustainability. Two questions emerged from the discussion:

    1. What are the forms of sustainable energy available today? No one seems to read or know much about what “sustainable energy” means?

    2. Are the various forms of sustainable energy we know about today sufficient to provide for economic growth, adequate power supplies and fuel for all our needs?
    We assumed for purposes of discussion that nuclear is not considered a form of “sustainable energy.

    Can you two help before my next haircut?




  1. Japan Heeds Enviro Criticism. Russia? Not So Much. - Environment and Energy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: