Japan wants out of the Kyoto treaty

A woman looks at a globe model in the climate village during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-16), in the Mexican seaside resort of Cancun, on November 30, 2010.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The UN climate conference in Cancun is now underway. No one's expecting earth shaking news out of the conference, but now there's these: a major economic power wants to back out of the world's only legally binding climate change treaty.

Marketplace's Eve Troeh is in Cancun with more. Good morning Eve.

EVE TROEH: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: So who's backing out? What's going on there?

TROEH: On opening day Japan drew a line in the sand. It will not support extending the Kyoto Protocol. That's the treaty that expires in 2012, where developed countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gases -- with the glaring exception of the U.S., which never signed. Japan says if the U.S. and developing nations, like China, haven't promised to cut pollution, the Kyoto treaty isn't fair. Why should Japan keep taking an economic hit to reduce emissions, when those countries don't have to do anything?

CHIOTAKIS: So is Japan the only one turning its back on Kyoto?

TROEH: Other countries have for years, they just didn't say so publicly. Canada and Russia, signed but they pretty much blew off their Kyoto promises and kept polluting. And global carbon emissions have gone down only a tiny bit, if at all, under Kyoto. It's been a kind of backup plan. Without it, there would be more weight behind the other global plan on the table, the Copenhagen Accord. That's the voluntary agreement signed by 80 countries last year to reduce pollution. Some want to turn Copenhagen into law. But if Copenhagen stays voluntary and Kyoto falls, that can mean there's no United Nations law for any country to lower green house gasses.

CHIOTAKIS: Now, Eve -- Kyoto is in Japan, obviously. Isn't it a bit embarrassing for Japan to strike against a treaty signed on its home turf?

TROEH: Yeah-- one expert I talked to said that may what keeps Japan in the treaty. Headlines that say "Japan Kills Kyoto" might just be too tough to bear.

CHIOTAKIS: Marketplace's Eve Troeh in Cancun. Eve thanks.

TROEH: Thank you.

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