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Japanese gov't shows striking lack of presence at COP21

PARIS -- Even after a United Nations conference on climate change extended its session on Dec. 12 to continue small-group discussions on specific topics, the Japanese government failed to show any significant presence, both in its positions on the various issues and in negotiations.

    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is chairman of the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP21), is set to present a draft agreement to each participating country as early as the morning of Dec. 12, local time (early evening Japan time).

    A mystified New Zealander expert on climate issues said that Japan was invisible, and that despite it being a major economic power, it was unclear what it was arguing for, or what it was trying to achieve at the conference.

    Japan is the world's 5th biggest producer of greenhouse gases.

    Since the conference began on Nov. 30, countries from North America and Europe have held multiple press conferences to get out the word on what they were setting out to accomplish and how negotiations were progressing -- the U.S. has given six, and the EU, three. Meanwhile, Japan gave just one official press conference for the foreign press on the first day of the conference, which comprised an explanation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's speech. There have been no press conferences by the Japanese delegation since Dec. 1, when negotiations launched into full swing.

    Japan's lack of presence in negotiations is also striking. As other countries butt heads over financial assistance and climate-related targets, France named 19 mediating countries for each topic to help bring unofficial negotiations together. Japan was not one of them. The U.S. and the EU, along with countries from Africa, South America, and a group of developing countries in the Pacific, have formed a so-called "high ambition coalition" to draw in as many votes as possible for the final agreement, but Japan is not a part of that, either.

    Even when it comes to bad press, Japan has had very little. Climate Action Network, a group comprising over 950 environmental NGOs from around the world, gives out "Fossil of the Day Awards" to countries that get in the way of negotiations to curb climate change. This time, Japan was awarded none -- a first since the award was launched in 2000.

    "It wasn't because Japan didn't drag down negotiations," a source involved with a Japanese NGO said. "It's because Japan showed no presence at all. It's a shame, considering this is a milestone conference."

    Meanwhile, a Japanese government source said, "What's better than not getting a dishonorable award? Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa has actively participated in negotiations, including 13 bilateral meetings."

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