Climate talks tense after walkout

Japan's support of a deal that includes all countries criticized

by Eric Johnston

COPENHAGEN — U.N. negotiators at the COP15 climate change conference were racing against the clock Tuesday, trying to conclude some form of agreement before nearly 120 heads of state began arriving Wednesday.

Differences over fundamental issues remained, with Japan being accused by developing countries and NGOs of attempting to kill the Kyoto Protocol.

No sign of a breakthrough had been seen as of Tuesday morning on fundamental issues that have divided developed and developing countries since the beginning of the conference last week.

On Monday, the proceedings were disrupted when a group of developing countries, mostly from Africa, led a temporary boycott, raising tempers and fears the conference was on the brink of collapse.

After the Danish government, which is hosting the conference, offered assurances that Africa’s concerns about continuing the Kyoto Protocol would be addressed, the boycott ended later that same day.

Developing nations have been demanding an extension of the protocol after 2012 rather than a new agreement and are refusing to commit to legally binding greenhouse gas reduction targets, saying they are not obligated to do so under either the 1997 Kyoto Protocol or an international agreement signed in Bali in 2007.

Developed countries interpret the Bali agreement differently and want a new agreement from 2012 to include some form of legally binding emissions reduction obligations from all countries.

In particular, Japan’s support of a deal that includes all countries was criticized Monday by developing countries and NGOs as an attempt to kill the Kyoto Protocol, a charge that was rejected by Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa.

“I don’t understand what the intention of developing countries was (in staging Monday’s temporary boycott),” Ozawa said. “They don’t have to enter a new agreement in the same way America and Japan (must) enter. The most important thing is to reduce total CO2 emissions worldwide in an agreement that includes America. This is what we’re aiming for.”

Ozawa also indicated there might be a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol for developing countries but a separate agreement that would convince the U.S. and China to join. An official draft that appeared late last week raised that possibility. But Japan and other developed nations that have joined the Kyoto Protocol opposed a section in that draft that would likely exempt countries such as the U.S. that do not recognize the protocol from penalties if they failed to meet their emissions reduction targets.