Tags: Europeans | Ratify | Kyoto | Protocol | 'Global | Warming'

Europeans Ratify Kyoto Protocol on 'Global Warming'

Friday, 31 May 2002 12:00 AM

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Legal Affairs Hans Correll, who accepted the documents at a brief ceremony, hailed the ratification as a tribute to international law.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the ratifications "good news for the entire world. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges the world will have to face in the 21st century."

He said the European Union "takes that threat seriously."

"I hope others will follow suit so that the protocol, a sound and innovative response to a truly global threat affecting rich and poor countries alike, can enter into force as soon as possible."

However, the treaty does not affect rich and poor countries alike. It puts the burden on the industrial West to the advantage of rising powers such as China that already have huge trade surpluses.

For that reason, among others, President Bush last year called the Kyoto Protocol "fatally flawed in fundamental ways" and said the United States would not ratify it on his watch.

"I oppose the Kyoto Protocol because it exempts 80 percent of the world, including major population centers such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the U.S. economy," Bush wrote in a letter to U.S. senators in March 2001.

Under the Clinton administration the Senate rejected the treaty 95-0.

To enter into force, the protocol must be ratified according to two yardsticks: by 55 countries and by nations responsible for 55 percent of the industrial countries' 1990 emissions. Now 69 countries have ratified it, marking passage of the first step, but with only 26.6 percent of the emissions required toward the second threshold.

However, 41 more nations have signed the protocol, including Russia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, an EU statement said. The EU expects Russia, Japan and New Zealand to ratify the protocol soon to meet the emissions threshold.

Japan's upper house of Parliament ratified the treaty early Friday. The government was formally expected to add its name to the signatory list June 4. Russia committed itself to ratify the protocol "as soon as possible" at a summit with EU leaders earlier this week.

Margot Wallstrom, EU environment commissioner, after the U.N. ceremony claimed to reporters: "The countries responsible for an important share of the industrialized world's emissions in 1990 are legally committed to the global framework to address climate change. The scientific evidence on climate change is stronger than ever.

She continued: "We all know that even the targets in the Kyoto Protocol are only a first step if we want to prevent the severe consequences that climate change could have. All countries have to act, but the industrialized countries have to take the lead. Climate change can only be tackled effectively through a multilateral process. I urge our partners both in the developed and in the developing countries to also ratify the Kyoto Protocol soon."

The European Union is known to be seeking ratification by industrial nations in hopes that the protocol can enter into force ahead of the World Summit on Sustainable Development scheduled to take place in August and September in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The ratifications deposited with the United Nations legally commits the EU to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and ammonia, by 8 percent below 1990 figures by 2012. The world average reduction is slightly over 5 percent below 1990 levels.

EC spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde told United Press International: "The EU did as it promised and now we urge the rest of the world to follow suit. Kyoto is the only game in town when it comes to meeting the climate change challenge globally."

Matthias Duwe of environmental group Climate Network Action called on the United States to follow the EU's example and said the imminent ratification of the Kyoto Protocol showed "U.S. opposition does not always prevent positive things happening."

The Bush administration agrees global temperatures have risen about 0.6 degrees Celsius (1.1 degree Fahrenheit) in the last 100 years at the same time as greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, have also risen. However, says Bush, further scientific conclusions are not solid.

The EU claims that science does support the link between human activity and global warming and that there is no time to waste. Some scientists think that higher temperatures would likely raise sea levels around the world, threaten coastal settlements, make weather patterns more unstable, alter animal habitats and growing seasons, and possibly broaden the regions and populations affected by tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

Bush has criticized Kyoto as "in many ways unrealistic," particularly its target levels. The U.S. economy has boomed since 1990, and with it its manufacturing and energy sectors, while much of the rest of the world economies languished.

In June 2001, the president, pointing out the United States spent more on climate research in the 1990s than Japan and the 15 EU member nations combined, announced initiatives to fund further studies such as climate modeling as well as "to tap the power of markets ... and spur technological innovation."

Critics of his alternate plan, among them most of the EU nations, say voluntary reductions will not be enough to offset rising global temperatures. Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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U.N. Undersecretary-General for Legal Affairs Hans Correll, who accepted the documents at a brief ceremony, hailed the ratification as a tribute to international law. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the ratifications good news for the entire world. Climate change is...
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Friday, 31 May 2002 12:00 AM
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