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Japan Turns Its Back on Kyoto Protocol


Japanese negotiator Jun Arima, center, and the Japanese delegation at UN climate change talks in Bonn, Germany, June 2009. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

CANCUN, Mexico - Japan rocked the UN
climate talks in Cancun Monday with the declaration that the Japanese
government would not agree to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.

Jun Arima, an official with Japan's Economics Trade and Industry
Department, said that his country would not inscribe its greenhouse gas
emissions target under the Kyoto Protocol on any conditions or under any

"Even if the Kyoto Protocol's extension becomes a major item on the
agenda at Cancun and Japan finds itself isolated over it, Japan will not
agree to it," said Hideki Minamikawa, vice minister for global
environmental affairs at the Environment Ministry.

Japan's move surprised many delegations although Prime Minister Naoto
Kan, said as early as October that he was opposed to simply extending
the Kyoto Protocol beyond its expiry date of 2012 if a replacement
agreement is not reached in time.

Japan has taken this position even though the country is legally bound
to limit its greenhouse gas emissions under the protocol, which was
initially adopted in December 1997 in the Japanese city of Kyoto and
entered into force on February 16, 2005.

As of July 2010, 191 nations had ratified the protocol, which commits 37
industrialized countries to limit their emissions to an average of 5.2
percent above 1990 levels. But the two countries with the highest
emissions rates - China and the United States - are not bound by the

"The biggest problem is that an agreement has not been reached on a
framework in which all major emitters will participate," Minamikawa told
the Japanese news agency Kyodo.

In Cancun, the 16th Conference of Parties to the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, opened Monday and will
continue through December 10 with representatives of 194 governments and
hundreds of civil society groups in attendance.

Negotiators are attempting to agree on a treaty to limit the greenhouse
gas emissions reponsible for global warming that will take effect when
the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period expires at the end of 2012.

At last year's UN climate talks in Copenhagen, many major emitting
countries agreed to take voluntary, rather than legally-binding actions
to limit greenhouse gas emissions by approving the Copenhagen Accord.

But many developing countries are clinging to the Kyoto Protocol, saying
there will be no progress on long-term cooperative climate action
without concrete progress on extending the Kyoto Protocol.

Environmental groups are appalled at Japan's position, which they warn could derail the negotiations.

Yuri Onodera with Friends of the Earth Japan said, "Japan's move to drop
out of the Kyoto treaty shows a severe lack of recognition of its own
historical and moral responsibility. With this position, Japan isolates
itself from the rest of the world. Even worse, this step undermines the
ongoing talks and is a serious threat to the progress needed here in

The climate conference opened on Monday with a speech from Mexican
President Felipe Calderon, who cited last year'?s hurricane in Mexico,
this year'?s floods in Pakistan and fires in Russia as examples of
increasing incidences of natural disasters brought about by climate
change and already affecting the world's poorest and most vulnerable

Calling on negotiators in Cancun to make progress in the interest of
their children and grandchildren, President Calderon said climate change
is an issue that "affects life on a planetary scale."

"What this means is that you will not be here alone negotiating in
Cancun," he said. "By your side, there will be billions of human beings,
expecting you to work for all of humanity."

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, who is presiding over the
conference, said, "?It is time to make a concerted effort before it is
too late. We can only achieve the results if we commit to making

Espinosa believes negotiators in Cancun can reach a deal to launch
action on adaptation, technology transfer and forests and can create a
new fund for long-term climate finance.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said in her opening
address that governments had revealed a growing convergence that a
balanced set of decisions under both the Convention and the Kyoto
Protocol could be an achievable outcome in Cancun.

She called continuation of the Kyoto Protocol a "politically charged
issue" and said the world needs to avoid "a gap" after the first
commitment period expires at the end of 2012.

Figueres said that during the past year, developed countries had shown a
commitment to live up to the fast start fund of $100 billion pledged in
Copenhagen to help developing countries cope with the unavoidable
impacts of climate change.

She said developed countries have announced pledges totaling US$28
billion and many of them are now making information available on the
disbursement of these funds.

U.S. negotiator Jonathan Pershing, the State Department's deputy special
envoy for climate change, said the United States is committed to the
Copenhagen Accord.

"The United States is standing behind the commitments we made in
Copenhagen," Pershing told a news conference Monday. "We remain
committed to President Obama's pledge announced in Copenhagen last year,
for a working reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in a range of 17
percent below the 2005 levels by 2020."

"We are also aggressively working to deliver on our fast start
commitment, beginning with our 2010 financing," Pershing said. "We have
worked to secure a large package of funding with a total contribution in
2010 fiscal year of about $1.7 billion. This represents an enormous
increase of climate finance to help developing countries with projects
ranging from adaptation activities in small island states to helping
Andean nations address the impacts of tropical glacier retreat, to clean
energy programs in Africa."

By contrast, China, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, will
continue to "stick to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the
Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Roadmap," the chief Chinese negotiator said
in Cancun Monday.

Su Wei, head of the climate change department of China's National
Development and Reform Commission, told the Xinhua news agency that
Beijing expects the conference to "bear real fruit" on the key issues of
mitigation, adaptation, financial support and technology transfer and
thus to "lay a solid foundation for future negotiations and the final
achievement of a legally binding treaty."

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