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Abe pledges more climate aid but keeps figure under wraps

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged further assistance to help developing countries cope with climate change-related natural disasters, but he didn’t disclose how much money Tokyo would be putting toward such efforts.

And his promise, delivered at the UN Climate Summit in New York on Tuesday, was undercut by a failure to spell out exactly how Japan — one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas producers — will go about reducing its own emissions.

Addressing the summit, Abe said that “global warming is unequivocal” and called for action, promising that Japan would help train 14,000 people over the next three years in fields related to climate change, and that the country would increase technological innovation to help trim global emissions.

The envisaged training is for weather forecasters and engineers in energy conservation technology, a government source said.

In 2013, Japan committed to spending about $16 billion over the following three years to help developing countries find ways to mitigate the impact of climate change. “We have achieved this target within a year and a half,” Abe said. “Japan keeps its promises.”

But he stopped short of mentioning the amount of funds Tokyo will be putting up for the Green Climate Fund, set up to support developing countries.

“Japan is considering the possibility of making an appropriate contribution,” Abe said.

He did cite a proposal he made seven years ago for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050, and said technological innovation was the key to achieving that target.

The absence of concrete ideas about reducing emissions from domestic sources in Abe’s address may reflect official uncertainty about the timing of nuclear reactor restarts after the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima No. 1 power plant and prompted a shutdown of all the nation’s 48 commercial reactors.

Concern is growing that Japan may not be able to present a post-2020 emission target when the Group of Seven countries meet next June. A government source has described the meeting as “the definitive deadline” for Japan as world leaders struggle to reach a new climate agreement before the end of an international meeting known as the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), to be held in Paris at the end of next year.

Abe said that “Japan aims to submit its intended, nationally determined contribution as early as possible,” in light of the decision at COP19, held in Warsaw last November.

At COP19, Japan set a goal of reducing emissions by 3.8 per cent by fiscal 2020 from the fiscal 2005 base year, drawing criticism from various countries for backpedaling on its previous pledge to cut 25 per cent from a fiscal 1990 base year.

Abe also said in his speech that his trip to the Caribbean in July made him realize the need to draw attention to the vulnerability of small island nations to natural disasters due to a lack of resilient infrastructure.

He then invited countries participating in the UN General Assembly to the third UN world conference on disaster risk reduction next March in the city of Sendai, which was hit hard by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the density of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere grew between 2012 and 2013 at its fastest rate since 1984.

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