Japan’s actions may hold the key to the rescue of the Kyoto Protocol, according to a World Wide Fund for Nature climate change campaigner.

Liam Salter

The protocol — adopted at international climate change talks in Kyoto in December 1997 — is a multilateral agreement to curb global warming.

When talks held in November fell just shy of cementing the pact, participants were optimistic they could bridge lingering gaps when negotiations reopen in Bonn in July at COP6, or the sixth Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

That was until U.S. President George W. Bush yanked U.S. support for the protocol last month and said the United States would come up with a counterplan.

Now Japan’s actions may determine whether the protocol is headed for ratification or obliteration, Liam Salter of the World Wide Fund for Nature said in an interview with The Japan Times.

“We see a role here for Japan as a bridge-builder,” he said.

Japanese and European delegations to the U.S. have reportedly so far been unable to pry open a window for U.S. participation. A group of senior European Union officials on environment policy arrived in Tokyo Monday to discuss recent events with Japanese government and political officials, and are expected to speak to the media today regarding their talks.

“We would say that (Japan) really needs to engage with the EU and send a positive signal after the EU meeting that (Japan is) willing to move forward with the ratification of the protocol . . . regardless of the U.S. position.”

Without U.S. support, Japan may hold the swing vote for putting the protocol into effect, he added.

“Japan is perceived internationally as the owner of the protocol,” Salter said. “If it says that it wants to bring this home and pull people together, the world will listen.”

But beyond the diplomatic glue it could use to bring the polarized sides of the Atlantic together, Japan also has math on its side.

The Kyoto Protocol will enter into force if it is ratified by a combination of industrially active countries whose total carbon dioxide emissions account for 55 percent of 1990 levels. Thus if Central Europe, the EU, Russia and Japan throw their weight behind it, this figure can be achieved, he said.

“What really is required now is for some people to take decisions so we have a clear track forward to COP6 and getting the rules sorted out,” Salter said, adding that his organization believes the U.S. will present a counterproposal unacceptable to the international community.

“You are then faced with two options — you either bring the protocol into force without the U.S. and push them to come back on board as soon as possible, or the process collapses,” he said.

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