UPDATE - Japan says to prepare Kyoto pact approval
TOKYO - Japan said yesterday it would start preparations to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on limiting global warming after a last-ditch deal was reached in Morocco paving the way for its implementation.
\"We decided to start preparations aimed at concluding the Kyoto Protocol in 2002,\" Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi told a news conference after a meeting of Japan\'s Global Warming Prevention Headquarters, chaired by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
The pact was put in jeopardy last March when, after four years of tortuous negotiations on its content, the United States pulled out of the agreement, saying it would hurt its economy.
Under the 1997 Kyoto deal, industrialised nations agreed to cut carbon dioxide emissions by an average 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. Greenhouse gases, which come mainly from burning fossil fuels, are thought to cause rising temperatures.
Since the U.S. withdrawal, having Japan - the world\'s second biggest economy and a major polluter - on board was seen as essential to bring the pact into force.
Kawaguchi said the government hoped to submit legislation on revising domestic rules in order to meet the Kyoto targets to the next regular session of parliament, which starts in January.
After tough bargaining in Marrakesh, environment and energy ministers from around the world agreed on Saturday on the rules governing the Kyoto Protocol.
The agreement provides a detailed rulebook governing the complex Kyoto pact, aimed at limiting the negative human impact on the earth\'s climate, and paves the way for its implementation next year.
Earlier in the day, Koizumi vowed to play a leading role in putting the accord into force in 2002.
\"From now on Japan must do its best towards putting into effect (the Kyoto Protocol) in 2002,\" Koizumi told parliament.
JAPAN HOLDS KEY
Japanese government sources had told Reuters last week that Tokyo was preparing to ratify the global warming pact even without the United States.
The United States, the world\'s top carbon dioxide producer, had signed up to Kyoto. But President George W. Bush abandoned Washington\'s commitments, saying the pact was \"fatally flawed\" and the goal of cutting emissions would hurt the U.S. economy.
Kawaguchi told the news conference that Japan will continue to make efforts to bring the United States back on board.
To come into force, Kyoto must be ratified by 55 countries, or by countries accounting for 55 percent of 1990 greenhouse gas emissions.
If Japan, Russia, the European Union (EU) and a number of Eastern European nations join hands, they would make up the needed 55 percent even without Washington. The EU nations produce some 24.4 percent, Russia 17.4 and Japan 8.5 percent.
Japan, which holds a swing vote, had been under persistent pressure from Europe to ratify the Kyoto climate change pact even without Washington.
INDUSTRY AGAINST KYOTO
At the meeting, Koizumi called on individual Japanese to make efforts towards energy conservation in an attempt to help Japan meet its targets under the protocol.
\"Each individual needs to make an effort, not just industries,\" he told reporters.
Fearing that they could lose their competitive edge in the global markets, Japanese businesses have cautioned against ratifying the Kyoto Protocol without the United States.
\"We need to work out a solution to help the economy and the environment,\" said Vice Trade Minister Katsusada Hirose.
\"We also want to involve the United States or make it easier for them to participate in these talks, as well as developing nations,\" he added.
The Japanese government sources said, however, that Tokyo was concerned that if Japan failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, Japanese products could be boycotted in Europe and in other areas that support the climate treaty.
Story by Kazunori Takada
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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