- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2001

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has joined the common sense forces on climate change. It was a welcome and wise move from one of the United States' most important allies.

During his first meeting with President George W. Bush at Camp David over the weekend, Mr. Koizumi gave his views on the treaty and proved himself a straight shooter by telling the press, "presently I do not have the intention of proceeding without the cooperation of the United States." Refusing to be daunted by a reporter's loaded question, Mr. Koizumi instead praised Mr. Bush's enthusiasm on environmental issues.

It was a gutsy call, even though Mr. Koizumi could have also shot back that the strictures of the Kyoto treaty do not even apply to many of Japan's regional economic competitors, such as China and India. Mr. Koizumi could have also cited the fact that the last thing Japan's wounded economy needs is the economy-killing regulations that compliance with Kyoto requires.

That is undoubtedly one of the reasons that despite all the sputtered rhetorical bullets, practically none of Europe's left-leaning leaders is leading a charge to implement Kyoto. Instead of forcing a showdown by starting implementation at home (which, for many, would be the surest way to ride off into the sunset of a losing election), they preferred to snipe at Mr. Bush. That was easy when the United States was the only target to shoot at. Now that Japan has joined the United States, it just might be enough to stop the rest of Kyoto's defenders in their tracks.

Roger S. Ballentine, President Clinton's climate change director and the chairman of the White House Climate Change Task Force recently wrote, "the Kyoto Protocol is on its deathbed." David G. Victor, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations claimed that without the United States and Japan involved, it would be "highly implausible" for the European Union to reach emissions targets, and reports in the International Herald Tribune acknowledged that Mr. Koizumi had effectively killed the treaty.

Indeed, one of the more amusing aspects of the whole shootout is how low Mr. Koizumi now registers with the mainstream media. He is not even a "maverick" anymore, but treated as something much further down the food chain of editorial metaphors. Yet in acting as a maverick on Kyoto, Mr. Koizumi has established himself as a model of common sense.

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