Home > Uncategorized > Japan’s position: a kic-off, not an end

Japan’s position: a kic-off, not an end

“It does not make sense” to extend Kyoto beyond 2012, said Hideki Minamikawa, the deputy Japanese environment minister, at a press conference in Cancún on December 1, 2010. What seemed surprising to the summit observers and commentators, is on a closer look not new at all: Since long politicians and scientists plead for a entirely new approach in facing today’s environmental challenge (e.g. Prins/Rayner in Nature 499). Kyoto, they argue, might have been a helpful as a first step, but will not be appropriate to reduce greenhouse gasses in  the necessary degree on a long term perspective. What indeed is new in Minamikawa’s attitude, is is the harsh wording and the frank way in which the demand for a new approach are expressed.

The reasons for not extending „Kyoto“ beyond 2012 are indeed plausible: Only 27 per cent of the global greenhouse emissions are produced by those states which signed the Kyoto-Protocol. China and India emit together more than 40 per cent, whereas the world’s most polluting national economy, the United States, emit 19 per cent. All three countries never signed Kyoto, and particularly the offers with which the US negotiators travelled to Cancún are very modest. When the protocol was signed, its parties produced more than 50 per cent of the worldwide emissions. The situation has changed: whereas the EU member states and other industrial countries successfully reduced the emissions, those of China, India and the US increased. A succeeding treaty should therefore  cover all relevant emitters, and its rules must become more differentiate. The new model should also base on a different legal form than the Kyoto-Protocol and thereby gain more acceptance also by the main emitters.

Meanwhile however there is a general consensus on the estimation, that not only the Kyoto states, but the international community as a whole has to strengthen its efforts in climate policy. But still no consensus is reached in the question of how to control and to monitor the commitments and reduction targets. In the past, China clearly refused any international control of its own reduction efforts, despite its general efforts in reducing greenhouse gases are commonly approved by the international community.

In one essential point, the negotiations of Cancún might achieve success: Since financial resources are an essential aspect of the measures to combat climate change, diplomats discuss an international fund of 23 billion Euro for short term measures in developing and threshold countries. A second fund for long-term measures shall provide 23 billion Euro. The European Union has offered to contribute 7 billion of such a fund, but no agreement could be reached about the question, if these resources should be paid as a loan or not.

Finally, can the Kyoto Protocol be extended without Japan? „No“, says Brazil’s top climate negotiator Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, who shows few understanding for Japan’s statement: “If a country does not want to keep an agreement, it simply can retire from it. But if you do not pay the political price to get out of the agreement, you should not affect its operation”, Figueiredo commented yesterday in Globo. Japan’s position however might be a contribution to revitalize the climate talks. In the end, Japan stressed clearly that it does not want to leave the negotiations nor the treaty: it just wants a new treaty including the participation of all big parties. Japan’s position indeed is not the end, but a kick-off towards a frank discussion about the degree of liabaility of a new international climate regime.

By Jesuit European Office, Brussels

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