Japan tells EU it wants U.S. back inside Kyoto pact

TOKYO, Reuters

Japan said on Monday it would do its best to bring the United States back to the Kyoto climate change pact but gave no sign that it was ready to yield to European pressure to ratify the accord without Washington.

Japanese Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi told a joint news conference with a European Union (EU) delegation that arrived in Tokyo earlier in the day that the two sides agreed Washington played an important rule in making the pact effective.

However, Kawaguchi said it would not be easy trying to bring the United States back to the Kyoto Protocol.

“The road will be a difficult one but as Prime Minister (Junichiro) Koizumi said there is still more time and I think we should try our very best until the very end.”

The EU and Japan also agreed it was important that both sides be flexible on the specific implementation rules of the treaty, Kawaguchi said.

Japan’s position is vital to rescuing the treaty to cut greenhouse gases now that the United States — the world’s top carbon dioxide producer — has dubbed the pact “fatally flawed” and withdrew earlier this year, citing economic concerns.

Because Japan is caught between Brussels and Washington, with its overarching priority on good ties with the United States, Tokyo has been stalling for time before making a final decision on what to do if the Americans stay out of the pact.

On Sunday, Koizumi reiterated there was no need to decide before key talks on climate change in Bonn from July 16 and did little to dispel concerns that Japan may be prepared to accept a watered-down treaty.

But in a letter to Goran Persson, prime minister of Sweden and president of the European Council, Koizumi dismissed criticism that Japan was delaying progress in the talks.

“My government will spare no effort in achieving a fruitful outcome as soon as possible, and has no intention of causing any delay in the progress of multinational talks by initiating the Japan-U.S. high level consultations,” he wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

EU delegation members told Kawaguchi that Brussels would be flexible but urged Japan to be bold enough to ratify without Washington.

“We have to move ahead even without the United States and want Japan to do so as well,” said EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom. “It is important that we don’t lose the momentum.”

Belgian Environment Minister Magda Aelvoet, in a Japanese newspaper on Saturday, said she did not rule out revising the Kyoto pact to try to bring the United States back on board.

“We would not rule out moderate revisions,” Aelvoet was quoted as saying. Belgium currently holds the rotating six-month presidency of the EU.

It was unclear whether she was referring to changes to the treaty itself or to the rules on its implementation.

So far, the EU has said the protocol itself is not up for renegotiation but major points about how it would be put into effect could be discussed at the next conference of parties to the treaty in Bonn later this month.

Kawaguchi will visit the United States this week for talks to try to rescue the Kyoto treaty, but she said she did not expect Washington to change its stance after the talks.

“I don’t think the United States will change its stance after one meeting.”