WWF releases UN climate talks "manifesto"

Environmental group lists demands for strict rules on sinks, compliance, flexible mechanism

Environmental group WWF has released a position paper for the international talks due in November to finalise the UN Kyoto climate protocol, claiming that the whole process will fail unless stringent controls are agreed. The sixth conference of parties to the 1992 climate convention (COP-6) will be "make-or-break" for the protocol, WWF says.

Rules on carbon "sinks" - absorption of carbon dioxide by forests and agricultural land - will be among the most crucial issue at COP-6, the group says. If too many activities are allowed to count as carbon absorbing, then sinks could be the biggest loophole in the whole protocol.

Protocol rules to ensure that countries comply with their legal responsibilities will be equally important, according to WWF. The group says it is looking for agreement on a strong compliance structure and "binding consequences" for countries that fail to live up to their commitments.

WWF's third priority for COP-6 is the Kyoto protocol's flexible mechanisms of emissions trading, "joint implementation" between developed countries and the "clean development mechanism" designed to help developing countries. It proposes concrete measures that it says are necessary to ensure that the mechanisms contribute to carbon emission reductions.

These include a 30% cap on the proportion of a country's emission reduction commitment that it can meet through emission trading. If its commitment is a limited increase in emissions then this cap should be 1%, WWF argues.

* In a related development, WWF claimed this week that one-third of the world's habitat was under threat from global warming and could either disappear or change beyond recognition by the end of the 21st century. The worst affected areas are likely to be Canada and Russia, WWF suggests, while predicting that animals and plants will have to migrate faster than one kilometre per year in one-third or more of all terrestrial habitats as temperatures rise.

Follow Up:
WWF, tel: +41 22 364 9111, and COP-6 paper Make-or Break for the Kyoto Protocol. See also threatened habitats press release and full report Global Warming and Terrestrial Biodiversity Decline.

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