Japan affirmed Thursday it will not extend its legal commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to cut greenhouse gases after they expire in 2012.
Japan has said it aims to reduce carbon emissions 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, but it will not make that pledge part of a binding agreement unless all other major economies join in an emissions-reduction treaty.
The fate of the landmark Kyoto document, which pegged nearly 40 countries to specific emissions targets, is the main contentious issue as 193 countries prepare for an major end-of-year climate conference in South Africa.
Japan was pushing for "a new comprehensive legal instrument ... in which all major emitters participate," said Akira Yamada, Japan's chief delegate to a two-week preparatory meeting in Bonn.
Yamada said the 1997 Kyoto agreement has not done enough to cut global emissions since countries like the U.S., China and India are not part of its emissions-reduction obligations.
The protocol sets a target of cutting emissions by a total 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Besides Japan, Russia and Canada also have refused to sign on to a second period from 2013 with a new set of targets.
Developing countries, and especially island states that fear global warming and rising sea levels threaten their existence, have said an extension of the protocol was the key to keeping the Earth from overheating this century.
The European Union, which has done the most to cut emissions, also has set conditions for its agreement.
Countries agreed at a conference in Cancun, Mexico, in December to try to keep the global average temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above preindustrial levels. In the absence of a new deal on agreed targets, countries submitted voluntary pledges outlining what they would do to control their emissions, but they added up to far less than needed to keep global warming in check.
"We are somewhere in a 3- or 4-degree world," said Martin Khor, head of the South Center advocacy group.
China, India, Brazil and other big emitters pledged to keep emissions below their normal growth trajectory, but they have refused to make those commitments legally binding. They argue that the wealthy countries caused the problem with 200 years of industrial development, and they cannot accept legal constrictions to their own modernization.