Kyoto protocol hopes hang on G8 summit

EU parliamentarians, NGOs, call on Blair, Kohl, to prevent USA backtracking on climate

European parliamentarians and environmental groups have warned that the future of the Kyoto climate change protocol could hang on discussions between the heads of state of the world's eight leading industrialised countries meeting in Birmingham, UK, this weekend.

At a conference organised by Global Legislators for a Better Environment (Globe) in London yesterday, speakers stressed that European governments would have to push the USA hard to prevent it undermining the protocol by promoting "flexibility mechanisms" such as emissions trading as a way to avoid making domestic emissions cuts.

Members of the pro-environment parliamentary grouping said that the USA might use the G8 meeting to clinch a deal with Russia to purchase "hot air" emissions credits. At Kyoto, Russia agreed to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by 2008-2012 even though its current emissions are some 30% less. Its spare capacity is so vast that the USA could avoid making any domestic cuts in emissions by doing a deal.

European and other governments are also concerned at the prospect. Speaking at the Globe meeting, UK environment minister Michael Meacher said the risk of "hot air" trading was one of the EU's chief concerns.

While the EU is in favour of emissions trading, it feels "50% or more" of each country's emissions reduction target should be met by domestic action, Mr Meacher said. This would push countries to make changes to their economies that would enable deeper emission cuts in the long term: cuts of 60-70% would be ultimately necessary, he warned.

The USA is refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol unless key developing countries also make commitments to control emissions. EU governments feel industrialised countries have to demonstrate first that they are taking serious domestic action but that a fair way to involve developing countries must be found.

Globe has written to G8 leaders proposing a plan that it feels offers an "equitable" solution. Dubbed "contraction and convergence," the model would stabilise the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide at a safe level and lead to every country having equal per capita emissions rights by 2045.

The G8 summit is the only top-level meeting scheduled between now and the next meeting of parties to the UN climate change convention in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November. At the session, industrialised countries will attempt to build on last December's Kyoto conference at which industrialised countries committed for the first time to legally binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

Follow Up:
Globe, tel: +32 2 230 6589; G8 summit.

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