BRUSSELS – The European Union environment chief has expressed hope that Japan will persevere in its attempts to salvage the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, despite the withdrawal of the United States.
“Since we want to ratify (the Kyoto Protocol) next year, we are dependent on Japan” and other traditional U.S. allies, as well as Russia, to bring the pact into force as early as 2002, EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said in an interview.
Wallstrom said the EU will step up its efforts to cooperate with Japan, adding that negotiations on issues highly important to both sides can begin ahead of July’s U.N. conference on climate change.
She expressed concerns, however, that Japan and other U.S. allies, including Canada and Australia, may follow the U.S. move if Washington remains out of the protocol, because they are economically dependent on the U.S.
Washington has shown no indication of its intent to rejoin the international accord aimed at curbing global warming.
“It could be difficult for some of those traditionally tied very close to the United States to actually take sides against the United States,” Wallstrom said. “Even if some of (the allies) now say they are committed to the protocol, there is of course a risk in the end.”
Under the worst-case scenario, the U.S. may recruit traditional allies to strengthen its revised position, Wallstrom said.
The sixth Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP6), held in The Hague, ended in November without any comprehensive agreement.
Germany later announced its plan to host a resumed COP6 meeting, due to be held in Bonn between July 16 and 27.
Following the breakdown, U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration announced in late March that the U.S. would ditch the agreement and present an “innovative” alternative plan.
The U.S. is the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases.
Wallstrom described one of the main obstacles to the Bonn meeting as “the feeling of (operating in) a vacuum,” whereby without knowing what the U.S. intends to do, most parties consider it difficult to agree on tough issues such as the so-called carbon sinks, responsible for the natural absorption of greenhouse gases by trees and soil.
“I think it is very important to anticipate what we want to see as an outcome of discussions in Bonn. How do we define a success? We will have to continue to look for a realistic but still important step forward,” she said, hinting that expectations for the resumed conference could be lowered.
Wallstrom stressed the EU’s role as crucial, saying Brussels is trying to take charge of the situation while relying heavily on the assistance of Japan.
She said an agreement between Japan and the EU could facilitate a comprehensive accord, adding that the EU will maintain close ties with Tokyo and other key players, including developing countries that are most affected by droughts and other consequences of global warming. Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi met Sunday with Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, to discuss how to proceed with negotiations toward the conference. Pronk will chair the Bonn meeting.
While Kawaguchi did not disclose the contents of the talks, she told a news conference that Japan will do its best to bring the Kyoto Protocol into effect by the 2002 target date, urging the EU to show more flexibility in an attempt to bring Washington to the negotiating table.
Wallstrom was dismissive of Kawaguchi’s remarks, calling them unfair. “You give some and you get some,” the former Swedish social affairs minister said. “This is how we should go for continued discussions.”
Wallstrom said the compromise paper, presented to the parties by Pronk in April, would not form the basis of further negotiations because many parties, including Japan, expressed dissatisfaction with the proposals.
Developed countries will meet in The Hague on June 5 and 28 in a bid to find some common ground and finalize preparations for Bonn, Wallstrom said.
The Kyoto agreement, negotiated and signed under U.N. auspices, requires the world’s industrialized countries to impose binding limits on emissions of heat-trapping gases that experts believe are causing significant changes in the Earth’s climate.
Under the accord, wealthy nations committed themselves to reducing their collective carbon dioxide emissions along with five other greenhouse gases.
Japan is required to cut emissions by 6 percent compared with 1990 levels during the five-year period from 2008 to 2012, while the U.S. is committed to 7 percent and the EU 8 percent.
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