Environmentalists have praised the EU for its undertaking to reduce ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions by 15% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2010.But this target is unlikely to be met unless other leading industrial powers are prepared to take difficult decisions. Campaigners have been buoyed up by a possible change in the US position following the G8 summit of leading industrialised nations in Denver last month and the recent special session of the UN in New York.Under severe pressure from a large group of EU leaders, US President Bill Clinton told the Denver meeting the US would “bring to the Kyoto conference in December a strong American commitment to realistic and binding limits that will significantly reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases”.Clinton now faces the small matter of winning over powerful lobbies in both the US Congress and American industry.But for most observers, it is Japan which holds the key to the success or otherwise of the entire enterprise. As the host nation, Japan would find failure to reach some sort of an agreement in Kyoto an intense embarrassment.Yet Tokyo has so far proved very resistant to anything which could add to the constraints on Japanese industry. “Japan seems to lack ambition as well as internal organisation. We were there recently, and Japanese officials took every opportunity to bash the EU for being too ambitious,” said Kerr. Part of Japan’s problem stems from the fact that the Union is able to split its comparatively ambitious target between its 15 member states. But European campaigners stress that if Japan has problems in a particular area, it can get together with other countries in the region to share the burden of reducing pollution.With just one session after this before Kyoto – from 20-31 October – minds are now very concentrated. But negotiations look set to go down to the wire, with a final outcome not expected until the last three days of December’s conference. During a week-long meeting of the signatories to the United Nations convention on climate change beginning today (31 July), the EU will be looking to Japan to make concessions which could determine whether this December’s key Kyoto summit is a success.Andrew Kerr, European climate change coordinator for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), says this week’s meeting will finally see countries making serious efforts to reduce their differences.“At the last session they had a hundred-odd pages of proposals which have been whittled down to a dozen or so. This time there are a number of countries really wanting to negotiate,” he said.