Germany and UK Issue Climate Change Challenge

BERLIN, Germany, September 4, 2000 (ENS) - Two of the European Union's most proactive environment ministers have issued a joint plea to the United States and like minded nations to agree to strong rules implementing the United Nations Kyoto climate protocol at November's conference of parties to the UN climate change convention in the Hague, Netherlands.

Germany's Jürgen Trittin and the UK's Michael Meacher published their joint article in seven newspapers in Europe and Japan this weekend.


Jürgen Trittin of the Green Party is Germany's environment minister (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
With this action, they have effectively kicked off what promises to be the most intense period of inter-governmental debate on climate policy since the Kyoto Protocol was first agreed in 1997.

The last preparatory talks for November's meeting began in Lyons, France, today. they will work out implementation details of the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms by which the emissions of greenhouse gases linked to climate change can be effectively limited. They will also cover issues of land use, land use change and forestry.

The key goal of this autumn's international negotiations must be to make the protocol "ratifiable" and so enable it to enter into force in 2002, say the two ministers - underlining the European Union's existing position.

At the last international climate negotiations in Bonn last November, the European Union committed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol by April 2002. This would coincide with the 10th anniversary of the United Nations 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro at which the climate change convention was first agreed.

The key political message articulated by environment ministers Tritten and Meacher is that to reach an environmentally credible agreement in the Hague, countries must avoid "creating loopholes" that "might allow some countries to avoid real domestic action" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States, Canada and Japan "have refused even to negotiate" with the European Union on its proposal to require at least 50 percent of countries' emission reduction commitments to be met through domestic action, they write. "We urge them to reconsider their positions and make constructive proposals."


UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher (Photo courtesy UK government)
The ministers then list a series of further specific demands for the negotiations. These include strict limits on the types of activities that can count as carbon "sinks" and for sinks projects not to be eligible for the "clean development mechanism," under which industrialised countries will be able to claim credit for emissions reduction projects in developing countries.

They call for agreement on a "positive list" of projects to be eligible under the clean development mechanism, based on renewable energy, energy efficiency and demand side management.

Another key, they say, must be an "effective and strong" compliance system, including "tough penalties" for failure to comply.

All of these are areas where a significant policy gap remains between the European Union and the U.S. led "umbrella group" countries, which are seeking much greater flexibility over Kyoto Protocol rules than the European Union.

The Kyoto Protocol is a legally binding agreement to collectively reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of 39 industrialized nations to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. The agreement was reached at the Third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997.

The agreement will not take effect until it is ratified by 55 percent of the nations emitting at least 55 percent of the six greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. November's meeting in the Netherlands is seen by some as the last chance for ratification.

Within the UN framework, each country has its own target - in the case of Canada, reducing emissions to six percent below 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012.

Other targets include an eight percent cut by many Central and East European states, and the European Union, and seven percent by the U.S.

The agreement covers six greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.


{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email:}