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Fukuda Urged To Press Hu On Smog

Lawmaker calls on prime minister to push acceptance of Japan’s plan to cut emissions

Chow Chung-yan in Tokyo – Updated on May 04, 2008 – SCMP

A Japanese Social Democratic Party legislator has called on the Fukuda government to use the opportunity of President Hu Jintao’s visit to persuade Beijing to accept its proposal on cutting pollution emissions.

Nobuto Hosaka, a member of the Japanese Diet, says environmental issues should be given top priority when Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda meets Mr Hu.

“We need to tell the Chinese leader that while we admire China’s rapid economic growth, we also hope such development would not come at the expense of the environment,” Mr Hosaka said.

“We see China is doing a lot of work to ensure good air quality in Beijing during the Olympics. But these are only temporary measures.” He said Japan needed China to come up with a long-term strategy to address pollution.

China has overtaken the United States in greenhouse gas emissions. A quarter of the country is now desert. More than three-quarters of its forests have disappeared. Millions of people are deprived of clean water and hundreds of thousands die annually from the effects of pollution.

The horrifying environmental fallout also affects its neighbours.

Acid rain caused by China’s sulfur-dioxide emissions severely damages forests in Korea and Japan. The dust storms from Inner Mongolia affect Seoul and Tokyo. The surge in untreated waste and agricultural run-off pouring into the Yellow and China Seas have caused frequent fish die-offs and overfishing is endangering many ocean species.

Mr Hosaka said Japan was eager to express concerns over these issues with Mr Hu. He hoped the two sides could have serious discussion on the issue and jointly design a plan to tackle the problem.

China stands as a major stumbling block for Japan’s proposal to reduce emissions worldwide. Last month, the United Nations decided to postpone discussions of Japan’s plan for cutting pollution by limiting emissions, after China and other developing nations opposed it during climate change negotiations in Bangkok, Thailand.

The industry emissions limit will be debated at a UN summit in August, instead of in June as planned, according to a deal reached by the UN. Japan, supported by the US, wants industries including utilities, steelmakers and cement producers to adopt technology that would slash the output of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.

But China, India and a further 77 developing nations believe developed nations should accept a greater share of the responsibility, as they caused the heat-trapping gases to build up.

China and other developing countries resisted calls that would have made them limit pollution as their economies expand.

Mr Hosaka believes Mr Hu’s visit this week would present an excellent opportunity for the two sides to bridge their differences.

“There are a lot of issues we can discuss and there are many areas where we can work together,” said Mr Hosaka, citing a discussion on how to build an emissions trading system as an example.

And as Beijing is seeking to increase its reliance on nuclear energy, Mr Hosaka said the two sides could discuss how to reduce and treat nuclear waste.

The environmental issue will be a key topic at the Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido in July.

“We hope world leaders will have extensive discussions on climate change and emissions reduction,” he said. “China’s view is important. We need to have more dialogue now because this is an issue that will affect our future generations.”

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