In Kyoto, the grey suits decide what kind of a world her children will live in

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The Independent Online
Japan singled out the United States as the key to the success or failure of the world conference on climate, which opens today in the ancient Japanese city of Kyoto.

The former Japanese capital is a city of old palaces and places of worship that hark back to the imperial past, where parents still dress children in traditional costumes (above) for ceremonies at the ancient shrines to pray for their future happiness.

The Japanese see the Kyoto conference as one of the keys to its future happiness as well. Tokyo wants a diplomatic triumph, to confirm its image as a great modern power, and to banish the lingering opprobrium from the Second World War. The 160 states attending are due to hammer out an agreement on reducing gases such as carbon dioxide, set off by burning oil and other fossil fuels.

But a wide gap still exists between the Europeans, who back significant cuts in emissions, and the United States, where public opinion fears such cuts will lead inexorably to a sharp increase in the cost of living.

Campaigners have invested Kyoto with enormous expectations. A Greenpeace spokesman, Bill Hare, said: "This is not just the last great battle of the 20th century, this is the most important environmental negotiation ever conducted."

Photograph: David Swanborough

Kyoto summit, page 7

Letters, page 12

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