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Last Updated: Monday, 6 December, 2004, 17:25 GMT
Talks look for new climate effort
By Richard Black
BBC environment correspondent

Cooling towers in Russia (AP)
Russia's ratification saved the Kyoto Protocol
Climate experts and politicians have begun meeting in Buenos Aires to discuss policies they believe may be needed beyond the Kyoto Protocol.

The treaty, which aims to curb the growth in greenhouse gases, was seven years in the making and will finally come into force on 16 February.

Its acceptance into international law became possible only last month when Russia formally ratified the pact.

Delegates in Argentina will discuss how the treaty could be strengthened.

Developing countries' role

Their agenda was conceived in the days before Russia blew new life into the seemingly moribund protocol. And it shows; there is plenty of tedious detail, but little that speaks of a grand design.

The real interest may lie outside the conference chambers. Russia's decision means that on the fringes delegates can finally dare to address the big question - what needs to happen next if the impacts of global warming are to be kept within manageable bounds.

The scientific consensus is that greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by around 60% globally. This simply cannot be done without significant action from developing countries.

The issue for the industrialised world is how to convince the leaders of nations like China, India and Brazil that they can and must make cuts - not now perhaps, but in the next few decades.

Washington's position

Developed countries will have to offer technologies which allow these nations to move forward economically while keeping emissions down.

The European Union has gone to Buenos Aires bearing several initiatives which it believes can play a role, notably its emissions trading scheme which opens for business in January.

It will also be asking that emissions from international flights and shipping be included in future treaties. But the big shadow over these negotiations is the US.

In recent days, Washington has made it clear it will not be coming back into the Kyoto fold. This leaves blocs such as the EU having to persuade less developed and less polluting nations to take action while the US does not.

It is likely to prove a difficult process; but if the scientists are right, it has to succeed.


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