Kyoto Shimbun 1997.12.2

U.S. Supports Differentiation

Statement by U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Melinda Kimble

At the U.N. Conference on Climate Change - COP3, which began on December 1, the representative for the U.S. government, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Melinda Kimble, clarified the U.S. position at the conference, making it known for the first time that .the U.S. would support a system of flexible targets. In her statement, Ms. Kimble said that the U.S. is not necessarily dedicated to the idea of unified targets for all countries that it had been promoting and that U.S. policy supports flexible targets (differentiation) for greenhouse gas reduction that take into consideration the situation of each country.

Ms. Kimble indicated that there are vast gaps in the proposals made by each country for reduction targets, and stated that the U.S. would support flexible targets if the targets are carefully set within a limited range.

In regard to the Russian Proposal (Advanced Nations Bubble), which plans to achieve a reduction target set for the more than thirty advanced nations as a whole, Ms. Kimble evaluated the proposal as "workable". Ms. Kimble proposed the establishment of a working committee for the differential plan and the Advanced Nations Bubble Plan.

Japan has already made progress in reducing its energy consumption. There has been a natural drop in energy use in Eastern Europe due to poor economy conditions. They U.S., however, still has an inefficient pattern of energy use. Therefore, the Japanese government feels that the establishment of a unified target for all countries would be unfair, and has been pushing for a system of differentiation that would allow different reduction targets for each country. With Ms. Kimble's statement of U.S. support for differentiation, discussions are now beginning to focus on how the targets should be determined for each country.

Adoption of a "Net System" that includes both emission and absorption
Informal meeting - Results reflected in the targets of each country

An informal meeting was held on November 30 at the Kyoto International Conference Hall in preparation for COP3. Attended by representatives from each of the participating countries, the meeting laid the groundwork for the adoption of a "Net System" at COP3. The Net System" is a method of including the role of forests and other sinks that absorb and store greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide which are causing global warming, when calculating the amount of greenhouse gas emission. This system is expected to greatly affect the targets set for each country. Figures based on this system indicate that Japan, for example, needs to further reduce its CO2 emissions by 7.5 million tons, equivalent to 2.5% of Japan's yearly emission of greenhouse gases.

The adoption of a net system that includes forests and other gas sinks is being strongly promoted by countries like Australia, Iceland and the U.S., which are conducting large-scale afforestation projects. Japan opposes the net system, stating that it is scientifically infeasible to accurately estimate the amount of CO2 absorbed by forestlands.