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Top polluters split on climate change

Latest update : 2008-03-16

At the close of a two-day climate conference in Tokyo, the world's top 20 greenhouse gas emitters agreed to work together to draft a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, though rich and developing nations remain divided on their respective roles.

Envoys from the world's top 20 polluting countries, which are together responsible for 80 percent of the world's emissions blamed for global warming, were trying to bridge gaps on what to do after Kyoto's obligations expire at the end of 2012.


"We reconfirmed the principle of common but differentiated responsibility in negotiating the next deal for 2013 and onward," said Japan's Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita, the co-chair of the weekend talks in suburban Tokyo.


"It was made clear that there are a variety of positions among developed countries, emerging countries and developing countries," Kamoshita said.


A UN climate conference in December in Bali set a deadline for the end of 2009 for a post-Kyoto deal. The next negotiations start at the end of the month in Bangkok.


"The talks here are very useful, because this is the first opportunity after the Bali meeting," said Halldor Thorgeirsson, director of the Bali roadmap for the UN climate body, told AFP.


But disagreements were out in the open, with developing countries insisting they not be held up to the same targets as wealthy nations in slashing emissions.


The United States has shunned the Kyoto Protocol, saying it is unfair by making no demands of developing nations. But virtually all countries agreed in Bali to take part in negotiating Kyoto's successor.


Japan, which lags behind in meeting its own Kyoto targets, has also been lukewarm on EU-led calls to set further broad binding targets for each nation.


Japan pushed at the conference for a "sectoral" approach -- setting energy efficiency goals for each industry -- but met with scepticism from developing countries.


Kamoshita defended Tokyo's position, saying: "Our proposal was meaningful in that it showed a new idea that's different from emission targets for each nation" championed by the European Union.


South Africa was particularly vocal against the Japanese proposal.


"It is clear that developed and developing countries are still far apart on sectoral approaches," South African Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said.


But he said some of the developing nations' concerns were addressed by the end of the talks, adding "as a developing country, we stand ready to contribute our fair share in a climate regime."


Former British prime minister Tony Blair, who is tasked with bridging differences in talks, had opened the conference with an impassioned call for developing nations to join the rich world in steep binding cuts.


Japan in July hosts the Group of Eight summit of rich nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- which it hopes will make progress in a climate deal.


Last year's G8 summit in Germany said rich nations would "seriously consider" slashing emissions by half by 2050. But there was no binding commitment and the base year was vague.


World Wildlife Fund Japan's Yurika Ayukawa, who is the vice chairwoman of non-governmental groups meeting for the G8 summit, said Tokyo should drop its focus on a sectoral approach.


"What we want from the Japanese government at the G8 is leadership, which means to have a mid-term goal by 2020 of a 25-40 percent reduction target from 1990 levels," she said.


Jennifer Morgan, the climate change programme director for Britain's E3G group, said the EU and developing countries had a "similar will" in fighting climate change, while US President George W. Bush's administration was sidelined.


"So, really, the question is how Japan will rebuild its credibility moving up towards the G8," she said.


Date created : 2008-03-16