Editorials | Environmental
|Japan Says No to Extending Kyoto|
Alex Morales & Stuart Biggs - Bloomberg News
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December 03, 2010
Cancun, Mexico – Japan won’t help extend the Kyoto Protocol accord to curb greenhouse-gas emissions after it expires in 2012, saying that instead a new global agreement is necessary to combat climate change.
The Kyoto treaty is “outdated” because it only regulates 27 percent of global emissions, Kuni Shimada, special adviser to Japanese Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto, said in an interview at United Nations climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.
Failing to extend Kyoto through a U.N.-brokered agreement may put the organization’s $2.7 billion annual market for emissions credits at risk of collapse.
The world’s second-biggest greenhouse-gas market is defined in the Kyoto accord and the credits are generated to help polluters around the world meet emissions targets laid down in the 1997 agreement.
“This is the firmest Japan has been,” Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director in Washington at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview in Cancun. “The fate of the Kyoto Protocol is going to cast a shadow over what we’re trying to do here on all the other building blocks of a climate agreement.”
The agreement negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, binds 37 developed nations and the European community to cut emissions from 1990 levels by a collective 5.2 percent in the five years through 2012. The U.S. never ratified the treaty, and developing countries such as China aren’t included.
Talks to extend Kyoto’s emission targets to the United States and China, the world’s biggest emitters, failed at the 2008 U.N. climate-protection summit in Poznan, Poland.
In Copenhagen last year, negotiators were hoping to write a global treaty replacing Kyoto. The talks collapsed over differences between the U.S. and China over the scale and monitoring of emissions cuts.
“China and India want to make sure the Kyoto Protocol is not dead, and you’ve got Japan and Russia and Canada saying no chance unless the U.S. and China are on board,” Schmidt said.
The U.S. isn’t likely to be able to agree to binding targets until at least 2013 because it needs to have domestic legislation in place first, Shimada said.
“Without the active participation of the two biggest emitters, namely China and the United States, it’s not a global effort,” said Shimada, who was formerly Japan’s lead negotiator at the talks. “Whatever happens, under any kind of conditions we do not accept a second commitment period.”
The comments indicate the depths of divisions that have prevented a new treaty on climate change. U.N. officials leading the current round of talks are aiming for more incremental progress on protecting forests, channeling funds to poor nations and on verifying reductions in emissions blamed for damaging the Earth’s atmosphere.
Agreeing to an extension for the Kyoto Protocol is a key demand by developing countries including China and the 43-nation Alliance of Small Island States.
The 27-nation European Union has said it’s open to a second commitment period, though it also wants action by the U.S. and China.
Jonathan Pershing, chief of the U.S. delegation, said earlier this week that the Obama administration stands by its commitment to reduce its emissions of heat-trapping gases by 17 percent for the 15 years through 2020.
He said President Barack Obama still thinks legislation is the right approach even after Congress this year failed to pass a climate change law and Obama’s Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives.