Japan announced Wednesday a new target of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2020 from the 2005 level — a figure immediately criticized by environmentalists as inadequate.
Prime Minister Taro Aso said Japan's the target matches the levels pledged by the European Union and the U.S.
The announcement comes as international delegates meet in Bonn, Germany, this week for the latest round of climate change talks that will culminate in a December conference in the Danish capital Copenhagen for a new agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Japan's new target represents about an 8 percent cut when compared with 1990 — the year previously used as an international baseline. It had announced before that it would cut roughly 4 percent from that year's level.
"To achieve the target, we must ask everyone to share a burden," Aso said. "That's the cost needed to save the Earth and our future. We all must make a commitment to tackle the problem of global warming."
The new target brings Tokyo closer in line with other major industrialized countries: a slightly bigger cut than the EU and U.S. targets compared with their 2005 levels, and somewhere between the two compared with the 1990 baseline.
The EU has set its 2020 reduction target at 20 percent below 1990 levels, which is equivalent of a cut of about 14 percent from 2005 levels. President Barack Obama's pledge to bring U.S. emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020 is an equivalent of 14 percent cut from 2005.
Aso said Japan's new target can be achieved through promotion of green technology, including solar panels and hybrid cars. Some projects are funded by the government's 15 trillion yen ($150 billion) stimulus package.
The target requires emissions cuts of 10 percent by the industrial sector and 25 percent by households. Business leaders called for state funding to relieve burden on small companies hit by the economic slump.
But environmentalists in Bonn said were critical of Japan's plan.
The World Wildlife Fund for Nature called it "dangerously lacking in ambition," saying it represents little change from Tokyo's earlier promise to cut emissions 6 percent by 2012. Greenpeace said it damaged hopes for an effective new treaty.
The expected Copenhagen agreement will succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in four years. The Kyoto accord required 37 industrial countries to cut their emissions by a total 5 percent from 1990 levels.
The expected new accord will set targets for industrial countries to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, and will call on developing countries to curb the growth of their emissions while their economies continue to expand. It also will set out ways to raise tens of billions of dollars to help poor countries adapt to climate change.
With six months left, talks are divided between the developed and emerging countries. Obligations taken on by fast-expanding economies like China, India and Brazil are considered key to the agreement.
Aso asked developing nations to do more.
"Developing countries should tackle the problem more actively instead of just blaming it all on industrialized nations," he said.
Developing nations are pledging to slow the growth of their emissions, as long as they get the funds and technology from advanced countries to keep their economies growing sustainably. They also demand that together the rich countries reduce their emissions within a 25 to 40 percent range from 1990 levels by 2020.