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Home > Media Reiews > Weekly Review Last Updated: 14:57 03/09/2007
Weekly Review #6: July 16, 2001

Japan Can Give Life or Death to Kyoto

John de Boer (University of Tokyo)

More than 100 countries are scheduled to meet in Bonn, Germany this week for a premature attempt to discuss the details of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Premature because before any details can be considered, the world needs to know whether Japan is in or not. All eyes are on Japan because its participation decides whether the treaty is put into the trash or enters into force. U.S. refusal to ratify the treaty has not signified the death of the Kyoto Protocol, ironically enough it is Japan that may end up aborting the very treaty that bears the name of its ancient capital.

The climate agreement becomes binding only if ratified by countries representing 55 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. The U.S. is the largest emitter, with a 37 percent share, and has made clear that it will not ratify the treaty. Canada and Australia have hid behind the argument that the protocol would be ineffective without U.S. participation and are unlikely to ratify. The EU, Russia, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia and Norway representing 49.7 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions have supported the treaty. This leaves Japan, responsible for 8.55 percent of global CO2 emissions, with the vote that determines the fate of the Kyoto Protocol.

Ever since PM Koizumi's summit with President Bush in Camp David two weeks ago, Japan has witnessed a media onslaught with EU member countries, the UN's Kofi Annan, and NGO's such as Greenpeace demanding Japan's participation in the treaty. Editorials have called for Japan to take a leadership role instead of blindly following the U.S. However, Koizumi and his administration remain ambiguous as to their position on the Kyoto Protocol, leading one to question whether they realize the importance of the treaty's ratification for the global climate and to Japan's international reputation. As Professor Jusen Asuka stated, "Japan's failure to act positively in this matter could convince the international community that its support for helping the global environment and developing nations is nothing but a sham." Even from the narrow perspective of selfish national interest, Japan stands to gain from ratifying the treaty for this will endow it with a moral persuasiveness that Japan always lacked. The Japanese government has painted the climate agreement as a dead fish in a sick pond without U.S. support. Although, U.S. refusal to participate is both indignant and unjustified, by no means has its withdrawal killed the Kyoto Protocol. As the articles below indicate, Japan's decision on Kyoto will give it life or death. The question is, will Japan step forward to take a hold of this opportunity or will it cower behind its American friend?

  • Jusen Asuka, "Japan should say no to Bush on Kyoto Protocol," Asahi Shimbun, July 15, 2001
  • Danielle Knight, "Dim Prospects for Climate Change Treaty," IPS, July 12, 2001
  • Doug Struck, "Global Warming Puts Koizumi on the Hot Seat," Washington Post, July 11, 2001
  • "EU Urges Japan to Ratify Kyoto Treaty," Los Angeles Times, July 09, 2001

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