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Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 05:15 GMT
Key climate treaty hurdle cleared
Polllution over Paris, AP
Some scientists say greenhouse gases are at critical levels
Environment ministers at the conference on climate change in Marrakech, Morocco, have moved a step closer to bringing into force a key treaty to tackle global warming.

The United Nations conference is attempting to draft the legal language to give effect to the Kyoto Protocol, which was signed in the Japanese city in 1997. This should pave the way for the protocol's ratification next year.

Delegates from the European Union and developing countries say they are upbeat on the key issue of compliance - namely the commitment by countries to stick to pollution targets and the penalty system for those that break the limits.

Miner at pithead
Kyoto could force old industries to close
Kyoto would commit signatories to a cut in their emissions of greenhouse gases - believed by many scientists to be warming the planet - by around 2% on 1990 levels.

European Union Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said the progress already made augured well for a full agreement to emerge by the end of the conference on Friday.

"The atmosphere seems to be good now that we have solved some of the problems," she said.

But the head of the EU delegation, Belgian Energy Minister Olivier Deleuze, warned against over-optimism, saying the deal was not yet in plance.

Binding sanctions

One of the major talking points in Marrakech has surrounded the issue of whether countries that emit more greenhouse gases than allowed under the protocol should face binding sanctions.

But this issue seems to have been resolved.

"Binding consequences are definitely there," Jennifer Morgan of the World Wide Fund for Nature said. "Countries now know if they miss their targets there will be consequences."

UN scientists say human-induced climate change could entail disastrous consequences, such as floods and droughts, with current climate models forecasting a global warming of up to 5.8 degrees Celsius by 2100.

Climate science

Not all researchers, however, agree with the UN assessment on climate change. They question the scientific underpinnings of much of the modelling work.

And, they argue, even if human-induced climate change is a real phenomenon, Kyoto is an expensive technical fix that may not even work.

The US, under the direction of President George W Bush, has already repudiated the treaty entirely, saying it would harm its economy.

US representative Paula Dobriansky said climate change warranted "serious attention and real commitment" but reaffirmed President Bush's position against signing the treaty.

"Our corrective, long-term objective must be to truly create a global approach that stitches together actions by all countries into a tapestry of national action and international cooperation," she said.

To enter into force, Kyoto must be ratified by 55 countries, responsible for 55% of emissions in 1990. This means that without the US - the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases - all the other big developed countries must be onside for the whole process to be carried through.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt
"Everyone seems optimistic about the eventual outcome"
See also:

29 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Climate roadshow rumbles on
01 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Kyoto 'not a done deal yet'
23 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Compromise saves climate treaty
07 Sep 01 | Glasgow 2001
New warning of coral disaster
06 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Rapid Antarctic warming puzzle
17 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Islanders press Bush on global warming
14 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Greenhouse gas trade go-ahead
10 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
Climate change glossary
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