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July 9, 2001
Volume 79, Number 28
CENEAR 79 28 p.11
ISSN 0009-2347
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Japan waffles on whether it will ratify the protocol without U.S.


Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has made ambiguous statements about his nation's plans for the Kyoto protocol on global climate change. Since President George W. Bush announced that he was rejecting the protocol, Japan's ratification has become critical to the treaty's future.

MIXED MESSAGES Japan's Koizumi (right) wants to support the Kyoto protocol without angering the Bush Administration, which has rejected the treaty.
On June 30, in a meeting in the U.S., Koizumi appeared to tell Bush that Japan would not ratify the protocol without U.S. participation. "Presently, I do not have the intention of proceeding without the cooperation of the U.S.," he said. "To the very last moment, I will work with the U.S. in cooperating on environmental issues."

The Bush Administration concluded from Koizumi's remarks that Japan shared the U.S.'s negative view of the protocol. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said on July 1 that the treaty appeared to be dead and that the Administration would continue to push alternative plans for increased research and voluntary programs on greenhouse gas reductions. "I'm glad to see Japan joining us in taking that position," he said.

But after Koizumi met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on July 2, Koizumi said they had agreed to seek a way to bring the U.S. back into the Kyoto protocol. "We agreed that it was important for Japan and Britain to cooperate to find a way to have the U.S. take part," Koizumi said.

Japan's support is key to keeping the protocol alive. To come into effect, the pact must be ratified by 55 countries representing 55% of 1990 industrialized world greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. emissions in 1990 were 36% of the total; Japan's were about 8%; and the European Union, Russia, Eastern Europe, and Canada accounted for 53%. Without ratification by either the U.S. or Japan, the treaty is unlikely to meet the 55% target.

Japan's contradictions are understandable, says Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Japan wants to see Kyoto go forward. It doesn't want to be blamed for killing it," he says. But at the same time, the U.S. is Japan's closest ally on the economy and military security, so Japan doesn't want to do anything that angers the U.S., he explains.

Apparently, Japan is thinking of suggesting changes in the protocol's targets and timetables to make it more acceptable to the U.S. On July 2, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said that Tokyo will step up efforts to urge the Bush Administration to ratify the pact.

In the meantime, DOE's Energy Information Administration announced that carbon dioxide emissions by the U.S. are rising. In 2000, U.S. emissions of CO2 grew 2.7%, the largest increase since 1996. For the same year, U.K. emissions of greenhouse gases fell to a 10-year low.

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