The Cancún climate-summit began this week with analysts in every possible media explaining just how little the coming fortnight will achieve. But even against this background of dreary predictions and low expectations, Japan’s announcement that it intends to breach its commitment to continue the Kyoto Protocol is a keenly felt blow.
In an open session on Tuesday, Japanese official Jun Arima briefly stated: “Japan will not inscribe its target under the Kyoto protocol on any conditions or under any circumstances.” The country will instead fight for a new deal based on the Copenhagen Accord that covers all nations – bringing the country more closely in line with the position of US climate negotiators.
This clear statement of opposition to extending the international treaty – signed in Japan itself – that commits most rich countries to emissions cuts was received with horror by many observers.
Sivan Kartha, senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute said: "The Kyoto Protocol for all its flaws is the only instrument we have that ensures the emission cuts required by science could happen. For the Japanese government to walk away from that agreement – risking its collapse — would leave us with no guarantee that emissions will be reduced. That could mean a 4 degree increase in temperatures or even worse, and a disaster for the planet."
For Mayuko Yanai of Friends of the Earth Japan, the statement was a betrayal of the country: "Japanese people are proud of the Kyoto Protocol and the role we played in its creation, and we expect our government to be a climate leader. That my government is now trying to destroy this treaty that bears a Japanese name is a disgrace."