International climate talks get underway

Nuclear power in the spotlight as governments gather for tough negotiations in The Hague

Thousands of government officials, politicians, lobbyists, activists and others began descending on the Dutch capital The Hague today for the sixth conference of parties (COP6) to the 1992 UN climate change convention (see separate article this issue for a selection of web resources).

During two weeks of talks, parties will try to finalise operational rules for the 1997 Kyoto protocol. Their challenge is to devise a system that is environmentally credible enough to satisfy more progressive countries but not so inflexible that countries more conservative on climate change refuse to ratify.

Amongst many other issues, the conference is expected to decide whether nuclear should be encouraged, tolerated or excluded from the Kyoto protocol's clean development mechanism (CDM) for emission limitation projects in developing countries. Debate over its future flared once again as the Hague talks began.

On Friday, European nuclear industry association Foratom defended the sector's role in the CDM. "Developing countries will suffer" if nuclear is excluded, it said. European environmental groups hit back today, with an attack on EU energy commissioner Loyala de Palacio, whom they suspect of being pro-nuclear.

In a letter to the European Commission and EU member states, Climate Network Europe, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth warned that there was a "distinct possibility" that Ms de Palacio would back nuclear in a speech she is due to give at The Hague next week. They urged EU negotiators to "stand firm" and prevent the commissioner from undermining the bloc's official position (ENDS Daily 7 November).

In a related anti-nuclear campaign statement, Greenpeace today warned shareholders of Finnish nuclear company TVO not to apply to build a fifth nuclear power station. TVO, and especially paper firm and major shareholder UPM-Kymmene should develop "a vision of the future instead of clinging to the past," the group said. Finland is the only European country where the possibility of new nuclear capacity is on the political agenda (ENDS Daily 22 May).

On the other side of the nuclear divide, the secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) claimed today that sustainable development could only be achieved with nuclear energy. Speaking in a personal capacity Donald Johnston told American and European nuclear scientists meeting in Washington D.C. that rising greenhouse gas emissions were "putting the world on a fast track to catastrophic global consequences". He called for a public education campaign to "lay out the facts and dispel myths and fears about nuclear energy".

Follow Up:
Foratom, tel: +32 2 505 4595, and press release; Climate Network Europe, tel: +32 2 231 0180; Greenpeace, tel: +31 20 523 6222; OECD, tel: +33 1 45 24 82 00, and Mr Johnston's speech.

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