Business fills post-Hague climate policy vacuum

Industry groups claim climate leadership following failure of Hague negotiations

Industry groups have pounced on world governments' failure last week to agree rules for implementing the UN Kyoto climate protocol, aiming to fill the public relations vacuum before serious talks get underway again.

"Industry is acting" on climate change "while governments are reacting," said the London-based World Energy Council (WEC) yesterday. Follow-up meetings to the Hague talks were planned, it said, "but meanwhile industry is getting on with the job of market driven solutions which address the problem".

A WEC pilot programme was underway for industry-led international collaboration to reduce emissions by at least 1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2005, the organisation said, stressing that the target amounted to 3% of expected total man-made emissions in that year and 4% of fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions. Nearly 500 projects capable of cutting emissions by over 850m tonnes by 2005 had already been identified, it added.

Generally seen as a principal villain of the piece, the global coal industry issued its own upbeat message today. The World Coal Institute launched what it called a "good news from coal" initiative; a series of case studies "demonstrating the efficiency and environmental benefits of 'new coal'". "It is not the use of coal, but how the coal is used that must be focus for action," the organisation added.

Chastened by its rough treatment at the Hague talks, the nuclear industry has nevertheless vowed to continue fighting its corner, restating its belief that "nuclear is...part of the solution" to climate change. European nuclear association Foratom alleged that the "true value" of nuclear had not been recognised in the talks because of the leading role of environment ministers "who are, at least in Europe, largely from Green parties".

* In a related development, EU environment commissioner Margot Wallström denied that the collapse of the Hague talks was a serious set-back yesterday in a speech to the European Parliament. Great progress had been made at "technical level," she said, while the negotiations had also improved parties' understanding of each other's positions. The conference had been suspended rather than closed, she stressed, and would be resumed next May.

Among Ms Wallström's key priorities for the next stage were for the EU to review its positions on key topics, notably sinks, flexible mechanisms, supplementarity and compliance, but not to reopen discussions on all issues. Contacts with other parties should be intensified, she said, and parties should agree a common set of data on sinks "instead of every party doing its own calculations".

Follow Up:
World Energy Council, tel: +44 20 77 34 59 96; World Coal Institute, tel: +44 20 82 46 66 11; Foratom, tel: +32 2 505 4595. See also Ms Wallström's speech.

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