Japan's statement on Monday that it would not inscribe new targets under a second commitment phase of the Kyoto Protocol has provoked sharp reactions from NGOs at the Cancun United Nations climate change conference here.

“Illegal”

The ‘Friends of the Earth,' at a press briefing, attacked Japan for its “illegal” refusal to consider a second commitment period, sparking off alarm that this move could well mean the end of the Kyoto Protocol when the first commitment period ends in 2012.

Mohamed Adow of ‘Christian Aid' said Japan's statement imperilled the only chance of a binding treaty on reducing emissions. It would undermine the Cancun negotiations and put millions of lives at risk. He appealed to other Annex 1 or developed countries to isolate Japan by reaffirming their commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.

Others said Japan's case that the Kyoto Protocol was inadequate because it captured only about 25 per cent of global emissions was not tenable. The Protocol was much more than emissions and it defined responsibilities for Annex 1 countries in technology and finance, among other things.

Yuri Onodera of the ‘Friends of the Earth' said he was shocked by Japan's statement and said that it was an act of betrayal. The move could well have come from Japan's concern for economic competitiveness with the U.S. and China. This concern should not come before the interests of global humanity, he said, adding that it was a high level decision by the Prime Minister and indicated a hardline government position.

Japan's move comes at a time when Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), expressed a belief that Cancun can launch a new era in climate change. At a press conference after the inauguration, she said the conference could be successful if parties compromised and governments reached a deal on adaptation, mitigation and technology transfer. Cancun could not solve everything and the outcome must be pragmatic, she pointed out.

Later, she said Japan's statement was not new, and that this was its position even 11 months ago. She said there was no need to single out particular areas of compromise but there could be something in it for everybody.

Stoic

The U.S. is stoic since it was not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol. It has said that it will work for agreements on other aspects. It said it was seeking a balanced package of decisions and spoke of being flexible and taking a pragmatic stand.