Indonesia outlined a plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent by 2025 yesterday, a potentially bold move which could shame wealthier nations into announcing tougher targets of their own.
The country, with a population of 235 million people, has one of the largest carbon footprints outside of the developed world.
Environment ministers from the Group of Eight leading industrialised countries, as well as from emerging economies such as China and India, begin talks in Kobe, Japan, today to pave the way for a G8 summit in Hokkaido in July.
Speaking ahead of today's meeting, the Indonesian Environment Minister, Rachmat Witoelar, said. "I'd like to voice my concerns that if the issue is not carefully managed, it will threaten the existence of humanity in Asia in particular, and the world in general.
"Indonesia realises the importance of this issue and has committed itself to play an active role in climate change negotiations."
If Indonesia turns what is still a set of proposals into official targets the move could spell a new era for the developing world's role in climate change negotiations.
Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, said that a policy outlined by President George Bush last month that would cap United States emissions in 2025 was "not enough" and paltry compared with Indonesia's latest pledge.
Poorer nations have often objected to footing the bill for a process begun by wealthier countries. Yet, amid speculation that China may already be the world's biggest carbon dioxide producer, many believe it is time for the developing world to sign up to similar targets.
However, it is still unclear how Indonesia would deliver such radical cuts. Mr Witoelar claimed that the goal could be achieved with reductions in forest burning and in cutting the use of oil. But since Indonesia also aims to increase the amount of coal it uses to produce energy by the same date, some observers fear the promise amounts to little more than hot air.
Indonesia's proposal is in accord with the United Nations' hope that carbon reduction targets will be based on less distant dates than 2050. Mr De Boer said: "My hope for the G8 is that it does not just discuss 2050 but tries to come up with intermediate ranges."