Japan approved a 20-year plan last week to help prevent global warming. The plan was rushed to completion by 17 ministries in time for the second World Climate Conference, which begins in Geneva today. The plan to ``stabilize'' carbon dioxide emissions is vague on specific targets and lacks regulatory powers to back it up, a sign that economic interests were able to dilute Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu's original proposal. Saburo Kato, director general of the Environment Agency's Global Environment Department, says of the plan's goals: ``We tried to accommodate these [economic] concerns.'' Officials decided to allow emissions to rise at approximately the rate of population growth so as not to impinge on economic growth.

Japan already has a low emission rate compared with other industrialized nations: 2.5 tons per person per year, about half the US rate.

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