Chancellor Angela Merkel's appeal to the developed nations Thursday to commit to cuts in greenhouse emissions during the Group of 8 summit meeting next month received a boost after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan proposed that countries cut emissions by 50 percent by 2050.
Speaking in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of Parliament, Merkel said the G-8 countries should take the lead in agreeing to new measures when the Kyoto Protocol on climate change expires in 2012. The countries - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States - meet in the Baltic sea resort of Heiligendamm on June 6-8.
"It is important that the G-8 develops a common understanding how climate change can be tackled and that agreements can me made for the period beyond 2012," said Merkel, a former environment minister, who has made the fight against global warming one of her main foreign policy goals since taking over the European Union and G-8 presidencies in January.
The G-8, she added, "must significantly and quickly reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases to limit earth warming to 2 degrees Celsius."
Abe, who since becoming prime minister last September has spoken out on several foreign policy issues, called for a new framework to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
"The Kyoto Protocol was the first, concrete step for the human race to tackle global warming, but we must admit that it has limitations," he said at a conference in Tokyo, Bloomberg reported.
He specifically called on the United States and China, the world's two biggest producers of carbon emissions, to take the lead in the fight against global warming. This, he added, would entail developing new technologies for renewable energy, as well as reducing or eliminating carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants.
The United States has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol because China and India were not part of it.
Agreed to in 1997, the protocol entails the 35 participating countries cutting their carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 5.2 percent by 2012.
Abe, who takes over the presidency of the G-8 next January, also proposed that those developing countries committed to reducing global warming should receive financial assistance.
Abe's strong statement on global warming follows his recent efforts to give Japan a greater political and security role since his election last September. He has forged closer contacts with NATO, and is improving relations with China and South Korea, partly in response to North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
He has also started to restructure Japan's security policy. Last January, he changed the status of Japan's defense agency by upgrading it to the status of a ministry and appointed a national security adviser.
Merkel has also won strong support from Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who made climate change one of his main concerns when he was chairman of last year's G-8 summit and has since continued this policy.
In March, the British government agreed to cut emissions 26 percent to 32 percent by 2020. An EU summit chaired by Merkel in March in Brussels agreed that the member states, collectively, would cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
Despite such support, it will be an uphill struggle for Merkel and her supporters at the G-8 summit next month to agree to tougher targets for reducing carbon emissions because of resistance from the United States. Without U.S. support, European diplomats say, it will be difficult for other big industrial countries, including India and China, to introduce policies to cut carbon emissions.
Merkel, who has had extensive talks with the United States on the issue, told legislators she was not certain of a breakthrough when leaders meet in June.
"I can say quite openly that, today, I don't know whether we will succeed in that at Heiligendamm," she said. "But for me it is clear that the big developed nations must take the lead on this issue if we are to have a change at fighting climate change."
Merkel wants strong language to reflect the urgency in dealing with climate change, including a reference to a UN conference on climate change scheduled for Bali, Indonesia, next December. At that conference, to be attended by environment ministers, Britain and Germany want to start discussions on a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, and include new countries.
The United States, however, is seeking a more general communiqué that would reflect the different circumstances and a diversity of approaches.