• Kyodo

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Japan and the European Union remained at odds Monday after separate discussions among negotiating blocs of mostly industrialized countries on a compromise plan that would lead to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol next month.

Representatives from Japan, the EU and other countries are here for an informal ministerial conference on global warming from Tuesday to Thursday to prepare for the sixth Conference of Parties of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP6), aimed at finalizing the operational rules of the Kyoto Protocol.

A new proposal for the global warming talks was drafted by Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk, who chaired last year’s collapsed talks here and who will chair the resumed COP6 session from July 16 to July 27 in Bonn, Germany.

In order for the Kyoto Protocol to be swiftly ratified, agreements on the operational rules must be reached during the resumed session, along with treaty ratification by the EU and Japan.

However, the prospects of this happening seem to be diminishing, given the succession of criticism from Japan and others of Pronk’s draft plan, which would be the basis for the operational rules.

Pronk’s proposal, released June 11, is seen as giving preferential treatment to Japan — considered a key nation in the protocol’s swift enforcement — as it accepts nearly all of Japan’s demands regarding the use of forests to absorb carbon dioxide.

The issue of “carbon sinks” is a focal point of the resumed session, as The Hague talks last year collapsed because of differences over the importance of these environmental preserves.

According to Japanese government officials, at Monday’s high-level meeting of a negotiating bloc that also included Australia and the United States, there was sharp criticism of the proposal and opposition to it underscoring the resumed session.

At the meeting, the U.S., the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter, also reaffirmed its intention to withdraw from the protocol, as originally announced by U.S. President George W. Bush in March.

Meanwhile, another negotiating bloc comprising the EU and countries of the Middle East held an unofficial meeting the same day and basically agreed to resume the session based on the proposal, according to sources close to the negotiations.

These diverging stances suggest a scenario in which Japan is pitted primarily against the EU in future negotiations, according to sources in the two blocs.

Earlier Monday, Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi met with British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in London, where they agreed to make joint efforts in future protocol negotiations. Kawaguchi later flew here to attend the ministerial meeting.

As Prescott has previously served as an intermediary between the U.S. and the EU, it is hoped he will also help bridge the Japan-Europe gap.

The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997, aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions of industrialized countries by an average 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

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