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Greenhouse Gas Plan Under Fire Oct 1997

TOKYO Japan, set to host a high-profile climate conference in December, unveiled yesterday its proposal for developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5 per cent from 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. But the proposal, which would let some countries including the United States, Japan and Australia cut emissions by less than 3 per percent based on their industrial conditions, immediately came under fire. The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, rejected the proposal saying Australia would not sign an international climate change treaty which was unfair and failed to take into account the country's reliance on fossil fuels. Environmentalists also lambasted Japan's plan. . "Climate science is saying quite clearly that we need to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions or we can't avoid dangerous levels of climate change," Andrew .Kerr, the European Coordinator of the World Wide Fund for Nature's climate change campaign, said. 'If we can't reduce emissions, we will go into the danger zone. The Japanese proposal doesn't do anything to pull us back from the brink. It's life-threatening," Under the proposal, unveiled by top Government spokesman Kanezo Muraoka, industrialised countries would be obliged to cut their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 5 er cent from 1990 levels. Countries would be able, however, to trim that target if their 1990 emissions per unit of gross domestic product were less than the average for industrialised nations, if their 1990 emissions per capita were less than the average, or if their population growth rate ivas higher than the average, Mr Muraoka said. Less than two months remain before the December conference, at which more than 150 signatories to a 1992 United Nations climate change convention will gather in Kyoto to hammer out binding targets for industrialised nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases in the next century. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are believed to heat the earth's atmosphere, with potentially dire consequences such as rising sea levels and severe weather changes. Greenpeace blasted Japan's proposal, calling it "ridiculously weak' and accusing the Govemment of caving in to its powerful Trade Ministry and to heavy industry. . The European Union wants all industrialised nations to accept its proposal for a 15 per cent cut by 2010, a proposal that Mr Muraoka termed "unfair and unrealistic." The United States has been dragging its feet as American industry conducts a costly campaign against binding targets and US carmakers insist that developing nations set targets. Japanese media, meanwhile, said that officials from the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand had agreed over the weekend to urge the union to alter its proposal and to seek targets for developing countries. Mr Kerr said seeking such targets could scuttle the Kyoto conference. "It [the demand for developing country targets] is one of the major stumbling blocks. "Developing countries want to see a good first step from the industrialised countries. That's how the deal was set up in Berlin in 1995 ... Trying to get new commitments at this time from developing countries ... threatens the negotiating process." REUTERS, AP