Japan should start focusing more diplomatic attention on Russia if it wants to put the Kyoto Protocol climate change agreement into force — with or without the United States.

Michael Grubb

So says Michael Grubb, professor of climate change and energy at Imperial College in London and an authority on the Kyoto Protocol.

Now that Japan’s superpower ally on the other side of the Pacific has announced it will opt out of the accord, the support of Japan and its northern neighbor will be crucial to putting the protocol into force, Grubb said in an interview with The Japan Times.

“Japan has got to talk to Russia more. It should say, ‘We recognize our historical difficulties and disputes, but rescuing this (Kyoto) process is going to require our cooperation,’ ” Grubb said.

Russia has yet to put forth a clear position since the U.S. announced last month that it will abandon the pact.

Another incentive for enhancing contact with Russia is the likelihood that Japan will need Russia’s help — through such mechanisms as joint implementation — to meet its own protocol objective of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels by the period 2008 to 2012.

Grubb, former head of the energy and environmental program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, has been lead author on a number of climate change studies and wrote “The Kyoto Protocol: A Guide and Assessment,” which was translated into Japanese late last year. He was in Tokyo last week for a government-sponsored symposium on the protocol.

The future of the protocol was plunged into uncertainty when U.S. President George W. Bush came out against it in mid-March and other U.S. officials said the accord should be scuttled.

“It was obvious Bush would have a problem with the protocol. It was not a surprise that he has opposed it, just how clumsy he was about it,” Grubb said.

“I don’t think he understood what he was doing, (or) the consequences of his actions. It was certainly not the action of a man who cares what the world thinks.”

Grubb has called the protocol an “unprecedented achievement in international affairs,” because of its scope and sophistication.

By pulling the rug out from under this agreement, the U.S. risks undermining efforts in industrial circles to address climate change in the U.S. and elsewhere, as some sectors have taken profound steps toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions on the assumption that the U.S. government would act in accordance with the protocol.

To put the protocol into force, 55 signatories to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and countries that produced 55 percent of industrialized nations’ 1990 carbon dioxide emissions must ratify the agreement.

Without the U.S. — which accounted for nearly 36 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions in 1990 — Europe, Japan and Russia will almost certainly have to throw their collective weight behind the protocol to make it legally binding.

The European Union, whose delegates visited Tokyo last week, has declared that it will ratify the protocol regardless of the U.S position.

Japan, however, has refused to say it will back the agreement without the U.S., hoping to draw the Americans back to the negotiating table. Japan is in the sticky position where it has to stand up to the U.S. or — as some sectors of domestic industry would like to see — sit quietly, Grubb said.

“The impression I get is that Japan is just desperate to believe the U.S. will come on board, because that saves them from this horrible dilemma,” he said.

“There is a chance that if the rest of the world sticks to its guns, (the protocol) will pass without the U.S. Then Bush will find himself under a lot of pressure,” Grubb added.

But for this to happen, Japan needs to make its voice clear, he said, signaling that the Kyoto Protocol is the only show in town.

“I think the Kyoto Protocol was a unique groundbreaking agreement. If it fails, it is not something we will find easy to replace.”

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