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Cancún climate change deal falls flat, Kyoto Protocol on life support

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Presently, climate negotiations are carried out on two “tracks.” The first already has emission-reduction targets from developed countries under the 1997 Protocol, and the second is a long-term plan for combating climate change involving all countries.

Japan complained that the Kyoto Protocol covers only 27 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions and never included the world’s largest emitters – China and the United States.

Other countries such as Russia, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia also wanted a single new treaty that puts binding obligations on all major emitters, but the prospect of that happening any time soon – with a US Congress filled with politicians who argue that forced emissions reductions would do too much economic damage, and China saying economic growth to pull millions of its citizens out of poverty is more important than emissions controls.

“Last week, big industry associations ... opposed [the] extension of the Kyoto Protocol,” says Masako Konishi, senior climate policy adviser of the World Wildlife Fund, Japan. “Unfortunately the Japanese government is listening to the big industry voice rather than a plea from the world.

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