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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Japan

Air Date: Week of July 6, 2001

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Japan is in the spotlight, as countries wait to see whether or not it will ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Host Steve Curwood discusses Japan's pivotal role in the global warming treaty negotiations with Jennifer Morgan, director of the World Wildlife Fund.

Transcript

CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Diplomats are preparing for this month's talks on the Kyoto Climate Change Treaty in Bonn, Germany. Whether the meeting results in an agreement that will put the treaty into force may very well depend on one nation--Japan. That's because countries representing at least 55% of development nations' greenhouse gas emissions have to sign on. Despite opposition from the United States, Europe and Russia have already agreed, and Japan could put the deal over the top. But, Junichuro Koizumi, the new prime minister of Japan, has sent conflicting signals. Jennifer Morgan follows these negotiations for the World Wildlife Fund. Hi, Jennifer.

MORGAN: Hello.

CURWOOD: Now, fill us in here. Over the past couple of weeks, Japan's prime minister has called the Bush administration's position on the treaty deplorable. Then he said he's not disappointed with the Bush position. Then he told European leaders that he'd continue talks with the U.S. until the protocol becomes effective. What do we make of all this?

MORGAN: Well, I think Koizumi's uncertain and ambiguous statements demonstrate what a difficult decision this is for Japan and how much rides on their decision. They are the ones who can bring this protocol into force. Their name is on it, and he's under a lot of domestic pressure to move forward. But, internationally, his key allies are split, and I think that's posing quite the dilemma for the prime minister.

CURWOOD: Jennifer, help us with the cultural issues here. I find sometimes in dealing with people in Japan, that they're very, very polite and it's hard to get a clear yes or no, especially if it's something that I might not want to hear. How much do you think that factor is playing in these negotiations and these discussions?

MORGAN: I think it's playing quite a large role. The cultural situation comes in on two fronts. The first is that this is the Kyoto protocol, and, to my knowledge, it's the only international agreement with the name of a Japanese city on it. And that's something that the Japanese have pledged to fulfill. And their honor in pledging that I think plays a major role in them wanting to stick with it. But then you have a situation where making a decision to necessarily choose between to allies is very difficult to lose face with one or the other.

CURWOOD: Talk to us about the domestic situation about the Kyoto protocol. You have an office there, you've talked to people; what do people there say?

MORGAN: Well, domestically, it's quite interesting. I think there's more pressure now than ever for the government to decide to ratify the protocol without the U.S. This is an election issue. The opposition party is running television ads asking Japan to ratify without the U.S. Key figures in the current leadership party are also stating that they should move forward. And even the public, there's some preliminary polls where 60% to 70% of the public supports moving forward, independent of what the U.S. should do. So, contrary to kind of the indecision that Kuozumi is showing internationally, domestically--outside of heavy industry, I should say--there's a lot of movement to go forward.

CURWOOD: Let's talk internationally. The European Union is putting a great deal of pressure on Japan now to say that it will ratify the protocol. In fact, there have been some recent revisions to the document that are essentially geared exclusively for Japan. Tell us about that.

MORGAN: Well, the European Union has stated its clear intention to move forward and ratify, and actually got the agreement of President Bush that he wouldn't block them from doing that. They are visiting key countries like Japan and Australia right now. And then, separately, the Chairman of the negotiations, Chairman Pronk, has put out a new negotiating text, which will form the basis of the final rules for the Kyoto protocol. In that text there is specific reference to conditions that would give Japan what it has asked for on the question of sinks or sequestration, how much credit they can get from their forests. That's something that looks specifically like it's gone to Japan, recognizing that Japan is a key country for this protocol to move forward.

CURWOOD: Now there's been talk that Japan will try to negotiate yet further changes to the protocol, to try to get the U.S. back on board. Perhaps changing the base year for CO2 calculations, or lowering targets. How is that likely to play out with the Europeans?

MORGAN: I think it will be very difficult for the Europeans to accept something that has these fundamental changes in it. I think that it's also a bit naive of the Japanese government to think they can convince this Bush government to change its position.

CURWOOD: How much of a unique position is this for Japan? How often has it been the lynch pin in major international negotiations, and how do you think that might affect the outcome here?

MORGAN: Well, it's interesting. I had a meeting with the Environment Minister about two weeks ago, and we were saying that this might be the first time that everyone in the world is looking at Japan; that it is the lynch pin in these international negotiations. That's a new place for them. And I think that it's placing them under tremendous pressure, which is causing the slightly ambiguous, or very ambiguous, statements to come out. All eyes are on Japan and its decision, I think, could either save the protocol or put it in dire shape.

CURWOOD: Jennifer Morgan is the director of the World Wildlife Fund's climate change campaign. Thanks for speaking with us.

MORGAN: You're welcome.

[CUTAWAY 1 MUSIC: David Torn, "Passenger".]

 

 

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