TOKYO - Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda was expected to unveil on Monday a target to cut Japan's greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but also faces pressure to set an interim goal to show leadership as host of a G8 summit next month.
Japan hopes to clinch agreement to halve global emissions by mid-century at the Group of Eight summit, where a climate change session will also be attended by big emerging countries such as China and India.
The European Union, which has already set a target of reducing emissions by 20 percent by 2020, and developing countries argue rich nations should take the lead by setting bold 2020 targets for reducing emissions that cause global warming.
But the United States, a top emitter along with China, has said it will only accept binding emissions curbs on condition major emerging countries also agree. So far, they have refused to do so.
Fukuda is likely to set a target to reduce emissions by 60-80 percent by 2050 and acknowledge the need for mid-term targets. But Japanese media have said he would stop short of announcing firm figures for a 2020 goal.
The Yomiuri newspaper said over the weekend, however, that he would introduce a preliminary figure estimating how much Japan could reduce emissions by around 2020-30 from 2005 levels.
The paper also said Fukuda would announce that a trial scheme for carbon trade, seen as one way to fight global warming, would begin in the autumn.
Japanese steel makers and power companies have opposed a mandatory cap-and-trade scheme out of fear it would harm their competitiveness.
Opposition party lawmakers and environmentalists say Fukuda should take a bold stance on an interim target to persuade industry and voters to get serious about global warming and convince emerging countries to join a new international framework.
WARY DOMESTIC INDUSTRY
"The question is what to do by 2020. I think it is vital to show political will by setting a numerical target," Katsuya Okada, a sponsor of a Democratic Party bill that would set an interim target of cutting emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels, told public broadcaster NHK on Sunday.
Japan is the world's fifth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, but the only one among the top five under pressure to meet a Kyoto target.
The United States refused to ratify the protocol, Russia is on track to meet its goal, and the pact set no targets for China and India because developing nations are excluded from making emissions cuts during the protocol's first phase ending in 2012.
Domestic industries still resent the tough target of reducing emissions by 6 percent set for Japan under Kyoto, which binds 37 industrialised nations to cut emissions by an average 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
Steel makers and power companies especially are wary of a similarly strict outcome in talks now underway among 190 nations to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto protocol by next year.
"Mid-term targets are a topic of international negotiations," former Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, who is leading ruling party debate on the topic, said on Sunday.
"It is important to set a mid-term target but Japan should announce that target at the time best suited to protect its national interests," she told NHK. She added that personally she thought a goal of around 25 percent was desirable.
Japanese media have said the government would consider introducing emissions trading after the Kyoto agreement expires.