TOKYO, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Japan's prime minister-elect, Yukio Hatoyama, pledged Monday to cut greenhouse gas emissions, aiming for a reduction of 25 percent by 2020.
Outgoing Premier Taro Aso had targeted a far lower reduction of just 8 percent.
Japan, the world's second-largest economy and fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has been under pressure to introduce stiffer policies on climate change.
Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Japan had agreed to reduce emissions by 6 percent or more from 1990 levels by 2012. But last year's emissions were 16 percent above the Kyoto target.
Hatoyama's new, ambitious goal alters the stakes for December's U.N.-backed meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, to draw up a new agreement on reducing emissions to replace Kyoto, the first phase of which expires in 2012. Some 190 countries will gather for the talks.
Hatoyama's commitment aligns Japan more closely with the 27-nation European Union, which has pledged emission cuts of 20 percent and up to 30 percent if other nations join in. Japan's commitment also means more pressure on the United States to commit to targets.
Hatoyama, in making the announcement at an environmental conference Monday, stressed that the goal is contingent on other nations setting similar emission targets.
"Our country can't stop climate change even if we achieve our reduction targets," Hatoyama said in his speech. "The world's leading nations must strive for an international framework that is fair and effective."
He called on industrialized nations to offer more "financial and technological support" to developing countries. Developing countries such as China and India contend that rich countries must help them carry the cost of reducing emissions.
Determining the emission reductions for leading world economies -- including the United States, Japan, Australia and EU members -- is one of the challenges for a successful outcome in Copenhagen.
"For a long time, everybody has been waiting for everybody else to move in the negotiations," Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard said in a statement. "Now, Japan has taken a bold step forward and set an ambitious target. I hope this will inspire other countries to follow suit."
Following Hatoyama's announcement, environmental activist group Greenpeace said the United States should follow Japan's cue.
"This is the first sign of climate leadership we have seen out of any developed country for quite some time -- the type of leadership we need to see from President Obama," Martin Kaiser, climate policy director at Greenpeace, said in a statement.
But some Japanese business groups are not supportive of Hatoyama's proposed emission targets and may lobby against it.
The head of the Japan Business Federation told reporters that the new target was "unrealistic" and "a burden on the people," the Telegraph reports.
"We are concerned about its feasibility given its impact on economic activities, effects in employment and the significant burden on the Japanese people," said Satoshi Aoki, chairman of Honda Motor and head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers' Association.
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan also described the new targets as "extremely tough."