• Kyodo

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A climate change proposal being drafted this week gives Japan preferential treatment on the use of forests to absorb the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, European and Japanese officials said Tuesday.

Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk, who will chair the resumed COP6 session of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn in July, has told Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi that he would do Japan “a favor” to meet Tokyo’s demand on the issue, the officials said.

Pronk and Kawaguchi met in Japan in May to discuss how to proceed with negotiations toward the conference.

Kawaguchi did not disclose the contents of the talks, on grounds that she had promised Pronk not to do so.

Carbon dioxide absorbers, or carbon sinks, are a key issue for parties to the Kyoto Protocol who will gather in Bonn to fill out the detailed arrangements for the treaty.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international accord aimed at curbing global warming, allows developed countries to offset their emissions against carbon sinks, such as planting new trees that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Japan is one of the most active advocates in seeking a flexible interpretation of the provisions to include emission cuts through natural forest absorption, and hopes to achieve a maximum 3.7 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions through forest absorption and reforestation.

Under the accord, Japan is committed to reducing its emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases by 6 percent compared with 1990 levels during the five-year period of 2008-2012, while the United States is committed to 7 percent and the European Union 8 percent.

The current version of the draft text, however, is bound by conditions such as setting a ceiling on carbon sink reductions. The carbon sink allowance “is not to exceed 50 percent of a party’s emission reduction target,” the text says.

Japan could currently only achieve a 0.6 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions through forest absorption.

Kawaguchi has criticized the text for not taking account of past discussions. Just after it was sent to the signatory parties in April, she described the text as “unacceptable.”

The upcoming comprehensive text is expected to be the final version before the Bonn meeting, officials said.

Pronk apparently made a compromise because Japan is “indispensable” in bringing the pact into force, according to one of the officials.

The Kyoto Protocol will enter into force after it has been ratified by at least 55 parties to the treaty, including developed countries and others representing at least 55 percent of the total 1990 carbon dioxide emissions from the group.

Since the U.S., the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, announced in March that it would reject the agreement, other big emitters such as Japan and Russia have become crucial to salvaging the accord.

The European Union is poised to reaffirm its commitment to ratify it by the end of 2002 when EU environment ministers gather in Luxembourg on June 7 and 8.

COP6 ended in November in The Hague without reaching a comprehensive agreement. The German government later announced it will host a resumed COP6 meeting in Bonn.

Parties plan to gather at The Hague on June 25 to 28 for preparatory talks.

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