Poor accuse Japan of jeopardizing U.N. climate talks

CANCUN, Mexico Wed Dec 1, 2010 2:38pm EST

CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Developing countries accused Japan on Wednesday of reneging on promises to extend the fight against global warming beyond 2012 and said the talks in Mexico would fail unless Tokyo backed down.

Japan, which is among almost 40 rich nations curbing greenhouse gas emissions under the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol until 2012, said it will not extend the cuts beyond 2012 unless countries like the United States and China also join in.

"I am afraid that, without concessions on the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement in Cancun is not going to fly," said Abdulla Alsaidi of Yemen, the chair of the group of 77 and China, a collection of developing nations at the summit.

He said he hoped the European Union, a main supporter of Kyoto alongside Japan, would persuade Tokyo to soften its position at the meeting. Nearly 200 nations are trying to draft a package of measures meant to help avert floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising seas.

"We are hopeful that they will persuade our good friends the Japanese to reconsider accepting (an extension), without which there will be no successful outcome for Cancun," he told Reuters at the talks in a Caribbean resort.

Under Kyoto, industrialized countries are meant to agree to an extension before its first period runs out in 2012, leaving little time if Cancun fails. The Kyoto Protocol underpins carbon markets, which want assurances of prices beyond 2012 to guide investments in renewable energies and a shift from fossil fuels.

"Japan is not trying to kill Kyoto, but it should be reborn in a single, more effective, legally binding treaty," said Akira Yamada, deputy director general for global issues at the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

The European Union and other Kyoto backers also want others to join in beyond 2012, but have been less outspoken.

Yamada told Reuters that Japan believes Kyoto is outdated since its limits only cover 27 percent of global emissions. When it was agreed in 1997, it encompassed 56 percent of world emissions including the United States, which never ratified.

Washington argued that Kyoto was fatally flawed by omitting targets for fast-growing emerging economies like China and India. Kyoto obliges its members to cut emissions by an average 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

Yamada said Tokyo favored building on the non-binding Copenhagen Accord from a 2009 summit, which includes promises by 140 nations to curb emissions. But it would never write new commitments into Kyoto's addenda.

Non-governmental organizations at the talks awarded Japan a "fossil of the day" on Tuesday, saying that it was doing most to stall progress at the meeting.

The Cancun talks have lower ambitions than the Copenhagen summit, which fell short of an all-encompassing treaty to combat global warming.

Cancun will seek agreement on a smaller package of measures including a "green fund" to channel aid to the poor or efforts to protect tropical forests that soak up carbon as they grow.

Yamada said developing nations had a lot to gain from a deal in Cancun. He noted that Japan has pledged $15 billion in fast-start funds to help developing nations from 2010-2012.

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