Germany and UK issue clarion call on climate

Ministers publish joint article in seven newspapers, plead for US flexibility on key issues

Two of the EU's most proactive environment ministers have issued a joint plea to the USA and like-minded nations to agree to strong rules implementing the UN Kyoto climate protocol at November's conference of parties to the UN climate change convention.

Germany's Jürgen Trittin and the UK's Michael Meacher published their joint article in seven newspapers in Europe and Japan this weekend. In so doing, 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 (ENDS Daily 11 December 1997). The last preparatory talks for November's meeting begins in Lyons, France, next week. Informal discussions started in Lyons today.

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 EU's existing position (ENDS Daily 5 November 1999). Their key political message which follows 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 USA, Canada and Japan "have refused even to negotiate" with the EU on its proposal to require at least 50% of countries' emission reduction commitments to be met through domestic action, they write. "We urge them to reconsider their positions and make constructive proposals."

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" (CDM), 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 CDM, 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 EU and the US-led "umbrella group" countries, which is seeking much greater flexibility over Kyoto protocol rules than the EU.

Follow Up:
German environment ministry, tel: +49 30 285 500; UK environment ministry, tel: +44 20 79 44 30 00, and full text of the article. Progress at the Lyons climate talks can be tracked via UN framework convention on climate change secretariat and Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

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