G8 green ministers keep climate ball rolling

Summit reaffirms quest for Kyoto deal, acknowledges remaining political differences

Environment ministers from the world's eight most powerful countries have reaffirmed their desire to reach a global accord on implementing the Kyoto climate protocol. Meeting in Trieste over the weekend, ministers from Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, the USA and Canada adopted a statement of intent attempting to bridge their differences on how negotiations should be taken forward.

"We express our concern about the seriousness of the situation," a communiqué says in response to recent scientific reports giving more pessimistic assessments of the extent of climate change (ENDS Daily 22 January). "We [will] strive to reach agreement on outstanding political issues and to ensure in a cost-effective manner the environmental integrity of the protocol."

The environmental community had looked to the meeting to provide a first indication of the new US government's policy on climate. "All ministers delivered today a clear desire for an agreement. I am particularly pleased that the new US administration endorsed this path," German environment minister Jürgen Trittin said yesterday. Former German capital Bonn will host resumed talks on the protocol from mid-July (ENDS Daily 28 February).

But the US representative at the talks, Christine Todd Whitman, stressed that the new administration was undertaking a full review of US climate policy and would not be bound by informal concessions granted by US negotiators in frantic last-minute negotiations to achieve a deal in The Hague (ENDS Daily 27 November 2000) .

The communiqué hints at the continuing strains between the EU and the US-led "Umbrella group" over the timing of the protocol's entry-into-force. It says this should happen no later than 2002 "for most countries," reflecting strong doubts that the American senate will agree ratification on this time scale, if at all.

In other issues tackled, ministers called on the global business community to take on a greater role in achieving sustainable development in the run-up to the Rio+10 world sustainability summit in Johannesburg next year. "The private sector has emerged as a global actor that has a significant impact on environmental trends...a more active involvement by business...as well as a greater commitment to a new culture of environmental stewardship, should be pursued." They also urged the rapid development of binding environmental guidelines governing export credit guarantee agencies.

Follow Up:
Italian environment ministry, tel: +39 06 57 22 55 80.

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