Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Tuesday that she does not interpret U.S. President George W. Bush’s recent comments on climate change as an outright rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, and again called on the United States to return to the negotiating table.

“In a word, I think the statement was very ambiguous,” Kawaguchi said.

“On the one hand (Bush) continued to use the expression ‘fatally flawed’ in reference to the Kyoto Protocol. But on the other hand he spoke of a number of measures that should be taken to address climate change, and many of these are included in the Kyoto Protocol.”

Kawaguchi also said Bush’s statement indicates there is potential common ground between the two countries.

“He mentioned research on monitoring, technological development and application of market mechanisms. These are fields in which I think there could be room for cooperation,” Kawaguchi said.

The U.S. abandoned the protocol in late March and has subsequently faced a barrage of criticism, most strongly from the European Union. Adopted at climate talks in Kyoto in December 1997, the protocol would oblige developed nations to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases.

Kawaguchi commended the U.S. for taking the issue seriously and Bush for stating that the U.S. will look to take the lead in tackling climate change, but voiced concern over a lack of targets and dates.

“He did not specifically mention numerical targets or commitment dates, or when the U.S. will come out with the specifics of its proposal. These are all grounds for worry,” she said.

Japan-friendly paper

A newly released climate change negotiating text would make it easier for Japan to meet greenhouse gas emissions cuts, but sticking points still remain, Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Tuesday.

“It is fair to say that some consideration was shown in regard to the opinion of Japan,” she said.

“It is a step in the right direction.”

The new Pronk Paper — written by Jan Pronk, president of COP6, the sixth Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change — would allow Japan to attain half of its mandated 6 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions via “sinks,” or carbon-absorbing ecosystems such as forests. Japan hopes to achieve 3.7 percent of its emission cuts through forestry and reforestation.

Under the previous document, released in April, Japan would have been limited to achieving 0.6 percent of its reductions in greenhouse gas emissions via forestry activities.

The new document features a special clause, ostensibly written for Japan, that allows countries with high energy efficiency, forest cover and population density to earn a larger portion of reduction credits from sinks.

Climate change talks broke down in November in The Hague and will resume in Bonn, Germany, in July, where the fate of the Kyoto Protocol will probably be determined.

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