Japan ratifies Kyoto pact, urges other countries to do same

Isabel Reynolds,TOKYO, Reuters

Japan on Tuesday ratified the Kyoto protocol on global warming that it signed at a United Nations climate conference in 1997 and said it would urge other countries including Russia and the United States to do the same.

With Russia seen likely to comply by the end of the year, the protocol is now just one step away from coming into effect.

“The Kyoto treaty is an important international step towards tackling climate change. I very much hope that other countries will join as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said in a statement.

Fifty-five nations producing 55 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions must ratify the pact before it becomes binding.

Under the protocol, named after the ancient Japanese city where it was signed, industrialized nations must cut emissions of greenhouse gases by an average of five percent over the period 2008-2012, compared with 1990 levels.

Japan has pledged to cut its output by six percent.

“It will not be easy to meet the targets in the treaty. It will require a joint effort by the government, corporations and individuals,” Koizumi said, calling for help and understanding from the Japanese people.

Gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are blamed for rising temperatures and changing weather patterns across the globe.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, a former environment minister who was involved in negotiating the pact, said: “I am deeply moved and pleased that Japan will become a party to the Kyoto protocol.”

Environmentalists said Japan would have difficulty meeting its target, since the volume of emissions had risen since 1990, according to latest official data, and the government had done little to promote renewable energy sources such as solar power.

“Japan is going to be very behind in its efforts to achieve its target without new measures,” said Yurika Ayukawa of World Wide Fund for Nature Japan.

Following the ratification at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Japan’s foreign and environment ministers will write to countries including Russia and the United States urging them to ratify the treaty, an environment ministry official said.

But hopes that the treaty can be brought into force during a Johannesburg meeting on sustainable development starting on August 26 now seem unrealistic, the official said.

Thirty-nine nations that have signed the treaty have yet to ratify it while the United States, the biggest producer of greenhouse gases, has rejected it altogether.

The pact would require the United States to cut emissions by seven percent from 1990 levels, a condition the Bush administration argued would harm the U.S. economy.

The European Union, which ratified the treaty as a bloc on Friday, took the opportunity to criticize the U.S. stance.

In a U.S. government report last Friday, however, the administration acknowledged for the first time that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would increase significantly over the next two decades, due mainly to human activities.

It forecast that its total greenhouse gas emissions would increase 43 percent between 2000 and 2020.