Lingering hopes of an agreement on global warming were dashed yesterday when the Japanese Prime Minister predicted that an international conference opening in Bonn today would fail to rescue the threatened Kyoto Protocol.
Junichiro Koizumi said: "My feeling is that no agreement will be reached in the next week's conference ... We have yet to reach a conclusion as we are trying to seek ways to co-operate between the United States, Europe and Japan."
European governments and environmentalists worldwide have been looking to Japan to bring clarity to the Bonn meeting since President Bush announced in March that America was abandoning the protocol.
The Europeans still plan to ratify the protocol, which commits nations to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. But Japanese support will be required for the treaty to take effect and so far Mr Koizumi is resolutely sitting on the fence.
"It is a delicate judgement for the Japanese government whether or not we should clarify [our position] now or patiently carry on the talks until the very end," he said. "It will take until late October for our honest views to come out."
Despite Mr Bush's explicit rejection of such a possibility, Japan claims the US may be persuaded to reconsider the agreement, brokered four years ago in Japan's ancient capital. On Friday, Yoriko Kawaguchi, its Environment Minister, had talks in Washington aimed at winning over the Americans. But there is no sign she succeeded.
Margot Wallstrom, the EU's environment commissioner, told the German news magazine Der Spiegel: "My expectations are not too high. There probably won't be any definitive decision." Britain's Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, spent Wednesday in Tokyo putting the European case but refused to discuss the outcome. According to informed sources in Tokyo, Britain had given up hope of saving the treaty in Bonn.
Japan is reluctant to take sides against America, its military protector and closest international friend, but ithas an interest in saving a treaty it played such an important role in brokering.
The Japanese opposition is working hard to make Mr Koizumi's indecision an issue in the forthcoming elections for the upper house, the Diet. But voters seem far more concerned with his plans for reforming the economy.Reuse content