Developing nations say Japan blocks climate talks

CANCUN, Mexico Thu Dec 2, 2010 9:07am EST

1 of 9. A woman waves a U.S. flag and a flag showing the earth while standing behind barricades set up near the venue where climate talks are taking place in Cancun December 1, 2010. The Cancun talks have far lower ambitions than last year's Copenhagen summit which fell short of an all-encompassing deal to help slow floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

Credit: Reuters/Gerardo Garcia

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CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Developing countries accused Japan on Wednesday of breaking a pledge to extend a U.N. pact for fighting global warming beyond 2012 and said that climate talks in Mexico would fail unless Tokyo backed down.

Japan, among almost 40 industrialized nations curbing greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol until 2012, said it will not extend cuts unless other big emitters like the United States and China also join in.

"There will be no successful outcome for Cancun" if Japan sticks to its refusal to extend cuts under Kyoto, said Abdulla Alsaidi, the chair of the group of 77 and China, the main body of developing nations at the two-week talks in Mexico.

Nearly 200 nations are trying to draft a modest package to help avert floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising seas. But Wednesday's tensions show that hurdles remain in building trust between rich and poor countries since the 2009 Copenhagen summit failed to agree a treaty.

"It does not make sense" to extend Kyoto, Hideki Minamikawa, a deputy Japanese environment minister, told a news conference. He said a broader deal was needed as Kyoto countries now account for only 27 percent of heat-trapping emissions.

"We need to achieve global reductions," he said, adding that Japan wanted to register all post-2012 cuts in a new deal, building on a non-binding Copenhagen Accord agreed last year by 140 nations accounting for 80 percent of emissions.

Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said Japan had made similar statements in the past and warned all sides that a clear decision on Kyoto's fate was not expected to be taken in Cancun.

"Given the diversity of positions on the Kyoto Protocol, it is not going to be possible for Cancun to take a radical decision one way or another on the Kyoto Protocol," she said.

That means ever less time to agree on what happens to Kyoto before its first period ends on December 31, 2012.

"WILLINGNESS TO COMPROMISE"

Kyoto obliges its members to cut emissions by an average 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012 and they are meant to agree new cuts.

Kyoto underpins carbon markets, which want assurances of policies beyond 2012 to guide investments. The International Energy Agency says $18 trillion needs to be spent by 2030 to ensure a shift from fossil fuels toward cleaner energies.

The European Union and other Kyoto backers also want others to join in beyond 2012 but have been less outspoken. The United States never ratified Kyoto, arguing that it would cost U.S. jobs and wrongly omitted 2012 targets for China and India.

Overall, Figueres said the talks were on track.

"The start is constructive, it's positive and we have very public expressions of the willingness to compromise," she said of countries including top emitters China and the United States.

Cancun will seek a package of measures including a "green fund" to channel aid to the poor, ways to help developing nations adapt to the impact of climate change and efforts to protect tropical forests that soak up carbon as they grow.

In Brazil, the government said deforestation in the Amazon region fell to its lowest level on record, marking what could be a watershed in the conservation of the world's biggest rainforest.

The government wants to showcase that it is one of the few major economies slashing greenhouse gases, which in Brazil come mostly from burning or rotting trees.

In Cancun, carbon market lobbyists and some countries called for a U.N. decision to commit to continue trade in carbon offsets under Kyoto after 2012, regardless of whether a new climate deal is agreed.

And the United Nations urged a global phase-out of old-style light bulbs and a switch to low-energy lighting that it said would save billions of dollars and combat climate change.

For Reuters latest environment blogs, click on: blogs.reuters.com/environment/

(Editing by Stacey Joyce and John O'Callaghan)

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