True Love Needs Commitment: the Unstable Relationship Between Japan and the Kyoto Protocol

by Tara Allen

The negotiations started off on the wrong foot Monday afternoon during the fifteenth meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 15). Japan, the home country of the Kyoto Protocol, stated that it would never, ever sign on to a second commitment period of the document, as initially planned when KP was adopted by the UNFCCC in 1997. The first commitment period of the KP is from 2008 to 2012 and its objective is for nations to reduce their GHG emissions by 5% of 1990 levels. The second commitment period for the KP would then be from 2013 to 2018, if it can survive without Japan’s support. “Japan will not inscribe its targets under the Kyoto Protocol on any conditions or under any circumstances,” says a Japanese negotiator at the plenary session.

Many people believe that the objective of the COP16 and CMP6 in Cancun is to rebuild trust within the UNFCCC after nations believed that the Copenhagen Accord at COP15 was not inclusive. Cancun is supposed to be the place and the time when a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol must be agreed upon before the first commitment period runs out. Without a second commitment period, it is possible that a new treaty will have to be formed to get nations like Japan on board with any kind of legally binding agreement.

The good news however is that many nations want a legally binding agreement to come out of Cancun. Perhaps these nations will help to keep Kyoto alive. If not, we can only hope that negotiators are willing to work hard and compromise to form a new legally binding agreement as an outcome to Cancun. Only time will tell.

Because of Japan’s recent actions in the negotiations they were the single winner of the Fossil of the Day award on Tuesday November 30th. Way to go Japan.

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