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COP16: Japan and the US stalling climate talks

Japan is putting the COP16 talks at risk with its inflexible position on the Kyoto Protocol’s future and the US is unacceptably hindering progress, according to NGOs in Cancún.

Japanese Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto told delgates that any new global treaty for reducing greenhouse gas emissions must be anchored on last year's Copenhagen Accord, not the 1997 Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012. Japan will not agree to a second commitment period, he says, although it will maintain the spirit of the treaty..

“Japan is really stalling progress,” says David Turnbull, executive director of Climate Action Network International. While not all items must be agreed upon in Cancún, some progress should be made for future negotiations in Durban at COP17, says Turnbull.

In addition, the US is holding important decisions “hostage” in effort to get transparency and MRV in place, says Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam executive director, adding that the move is “unacceptable” and costs lives.

That said, Hobbs notes that fresh text on finance distributed on Wednesday gives renewed hope that a global climate fund can be agreed upon in Cancún, which he calls a “huge step forward” in supporting developing countries.

Turnbull says that substantial progress has been made on mitigation and emissions reductions commitments, even if final agreements on those issues are not taken here.

But nations are urged to make those emission reductions commitments a floor, rather than a ceiling, as further reductions are needed to reach the goal of limiting the temperature increase of the planet to below 2 degrees Celsius.

Hobbs says that he has “seen real progress in the last two weeks” and says the EU has an “essential role” in Kyoto Protocol and climate finance negotiations, especially after nearly “killing off” the Kyoto Protocol at COP15 in Copenhagen last year.

Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, responded saying: "It is absurd and unfair that the EU is accused of killing the Kyoto Protocol. On the contrary, the EU has consistently fought to keep it alive and still does. At the same time we work to ensure that the US and the large emerging economies take on binding commitments as they represent a very substantial part of the global emissions."