Staff writer

Japanese officials attending the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany, are not expecting major developments this year and are already looking ahead to next year’s meeting.

Japan’s representatives traveling to the Fifth Conference of Parties to the United Nations, or COP5, which kicked off Monday, are hoping this round will set the stage for a successful COP6, tentatively set for November 2000 in The Hague.

During the meeting, Japan hopes to see developing nations commit themselves to participate in the global drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stem climate change.

Government representatives attending the event also express hope that the nearly 180 signatory nations will draft specific proposals for setting up compliance and flexibility mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol adopted in December 1997. If signatories can ink a set of concrete proposals, it will provide a base and momentum going into the next, more critical set of negotiations, government officials said.

The Kyoto Protocol, while mandating that industrialized nations cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012, also calls for mechanisms to allow a certain amount of flexibility in achieving emissions reductions.

The meeting at The Hague represents the fast-approaching deadline for deciding on the details of the treaty — emissions trading, joint implementation by developed countries, and a clean development mechanism to facilitate emissions reduction projects among developing and developed countries — as well as how to deal with countries failing to achieve their targets.

COP5 is about creating a road map for the next gathering and sending a strong message to the world that countries can move toward a consensus on implementation in time for the next COP, said Kazuhiko Takemoto, director of the Environment Agency’s Global Environment Protection Division.

A development that could give the treaty a boost going into next year is the support of some developing countries. In Kyoto, developing countries voiced concern about signing on to the protocol to clean up a mess initially created by industrialized countries.

In Bonn, however, Argentina and South Korea are set to shoulder the responsibility of cutting greenhouse gas emissions for the first time, Takemoto said.

Whether countries that fail to meet treaty objectives should be punished, or whether a system of technical support established to aid laggards should be instituted, are among compliance topics to be tabled, said a climate change expert from the Foreign Ministry.

“Basically, everyone wants to comply with the treaty. But if a country can’t meet its obligations, the question is what to do,” the official said.

An unanswered question for Japan is whether Kayoko Shimizu, recently appointed head of the Environment Agency, will be able to sneak away from Diet proceedings to attend. With environment ministers from 80 to 100 nations set to attend a high-level segment Nov. 2 to hash out the big problems, her absence would not look good for Japan.

Japan has committed itself to a 6 percent reduction of six greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by 2012. To reach this goal, it must slash its emissions by 15 percent from the current level.

Other topics to be discussed will include early action, especially relevant for small island nations that fear rising sea levels will submerge their countries, technology transfers and how to entice reluctant parties, such as oil producing nations, to participate.

In ironing out wrinkles in the Kyoto mechanisms, nations will also have to decide if emissions credits acquired abroad — by aiding another country’s emissions reductions, for example — should be limitless, or if a ceiling, to encourage domestic action, is needed.

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