Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshito Sengoku, told reporters Monday in Cancun that Tokyo would "sternly oppose debate for extending the Kyoto Protocol into a second phase which is unfair and ineffective."
The Kyoto Protocol, the first phase of which expires in 2012, was adopted in 1997.
As of July 2010, 191 nations had ratified the protocol, which commits 37 industrialized countries to cut emissions by an average of 5 percent of 1990 levels by 2012. China and the United States, however, are not bound by the treaty, even though they have the highest rates of emissions.
Jun Arima, deputy director general for environmental affairs at Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, publicly confirmed Tuesday Tokyo's opposition to an extension, saying, "Japan will not inscribe its target under the Kyoto Protocol on any conditions or under any circumstances."
Chinese news agency Xinhua on Thursday quoted Brazilian Ambassador for Climate Change Sergio Serra as saying Japan's position on the issue "obviously will" be an obstacle to the Cancun negotiations "unless Japan compromises a little bit."
"There is no way to move forward if we don't have the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol," he said.
Japan's position underscores the government's determination to establish what it has considered a "fair and effective" emissions-reduction framework in which all major emitters, including China and the United States, can participate as one to succeed the legally binding Kyoto treaty.
Even though Japanese Prime Naoto Kan said in October he was opposed to extending the Kyoto Protocol beyond the 2012 expiry date if a replacement agreement is not reached in time, Japan's announcement in Cancun took many negotiators by surprise.
"For Japan to come out with a statement like that at the beginning of the talks is significant," the Guardian newspaper on Wednesday quoted an unnamed British official as saying. "The forthrightness of the statement took people by surprise."
"That my government is now trying to destroy this treaty that bears a Japanese name is a disgrace. The Japanese government's shameful comments in Cancun signal that it cares more about big business than mother earth," Mayuko Yanai of Friends of the Earth Japan told a news conference, Xinhua reports.
"The government claims it believes most Japanese people support this position. This misunderstanding makes dangerous climate change all the more likely," he said.
Countries such as the United States, Canada and Russia want to replace Kyoto with a new treaty, and the vast majority of developing nations are seeking an extension of the existing agreement.
The U.N.-backed climate meeting continues in Cancun through Dec. 10.