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Japan may act on pact without U.S.

Yoriko holding a
Japanese Environmental Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi in the Bonn plenum  

TOKYO, Japan -- Japan officials say they are preparing to ratify the Kyoto pact on global warming even without U.S. participation and despite Tokyo's official indecision over whether to endorse the agreement.

Tokyo has been in a quandary after the United States -- its most important ally and the world's biggest polluter -- backed out of the protocol in March.

Europe has been pressuring Tokyo to proceed with the pact without the United States, but Japan has been stalling, saying it wanted to try bringing Washington back on board.

"The United States' return to the protocol is not a prerequisite for Japan's ratification," an Environment Ministry official said.

"It would be best to have the United States but there are other methods," he said, adding that a final decision would be made at a political level.

Last month, about 180 countries reached an agreement in Bonn that should allow the pact to come into force, but delegates failed to agree on details of the implementation, leaving the specifics to be drawn up in October at the next round in Morocco.

To come into force, the pact must be ratified by 55 countries, or by countries accounting for 55 percent of 1990 greenhouse gas emissions.

Participation by Japan, the world's second-largest economy, is therefore crucial in the absence of the United States.

Biggest hurdle

While the United States' refusal to join was seen as the main obstacle to Japan's ratification, a Foreign Ministry source said it was the lack of details in the protocol itself that posed the biggest problems.

"It isn't the United States we are concerned about. (The problem) is the details of the treaty, which have not been decided."

Japanese officials said that although the Bonn meeting gave the treaty momentum, the details it outlined were not enough for Tokyo to make a decision on whether it would agree to the pact.

"We have to know what we will be ratifying and we were unable to draw out such details at Bonn. We will do our best to make COP7 (Conference of the Parties) in Morocco a success," another Foreign Ministry official said.

She added, however, that reaching a consensus even then would not be easy. "It will be extremely difficult," she said.

Nevertheless, officials said Japan would waste no time now in moving the ratification process forward in case the decision to do so is made.

"It will be too late to start if we wait until the COP7 so we have started preparations such as outlining laws to meet the domestic emission reduction," the Environment Ministry official said.

The ministry has also decided to make budget requests for related expenses in the event of ratification, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported on Thursday.

The United States produces 36.1 percent of the developed world's emissions of man-made carbon dioxide, while the EU accounts for 24.2 percent. Japan is responsible for 8.5 percent.

Under the current deal, industrialized nations agreed to cut carbon dioxide emissions by an average 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. Greenhouse gases, which come mainly from burning fossil fuels, are thought to cause rising temperatures.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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