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Wednesday, 18 July, 2001, 21:50 GMT 22:50 UK
Climate treaty hopes 'rising daily'
Jan Pronk
Jan Pronk hopes to save Kyoto despite US opposition
By BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby in Bonn

The man heading attempts to finalise the Kyoto Protocol, the global climate treaty, says he believes they can succeed.

Jan Pronk, the Dutch Environment Minister, is president of the talks, being held in the German city of Bonn.

With the US, the world's biggest polluter, refusing to support the protocol, expectations of success are not high.


On the basis of the atmosphere during these three days, and of my talks with individual delegates, I have the impression that it is possible to reach a result

Talks chairman Jan Pronk

But Mr Pronk told journalists: "My hopes are growing day by day."

The Kyoto Protocol requires industrialised countries to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases by an average of 5.2% below their 1990 levels by 2012.

Mr Pronk told a news conference at the end of a third day of talks by officials: "This is not a new set of negotiations to replace the ones that broke down in The Hague last November.

"These are a resumption of The Hague talks. Discussions are going ahead in four groups, and the reports I'm receiving show that countries are interested in movement.

"It seems to be possible to solve some of the issues, so there'll be fewer for ministers to resolve when they arrive tomorrow.

"When I came to Bonn I was a bit pessimistic. However, on the basis of the atmosphere during these three days, and of my talks with individual delegates, I have the impression that it is possible to reach a result.

"We are talking about agreement on a core package."

Sombre atmosphere

His comments are a marked contrast with those of many delegates and observers, one of whom described the atmosphere at the conference as "like a wake".


If the political will were there you could cut through the outstanding issues. But what we're seeing is a hardening of positions by some countries

EU official
Told by a journalist that the mood was "sombre", Mr Pronk replied: "Let's use the instrument of self-fulfilling prophecies."

But when he was asked whether a failure by the ministers to reach agreement would mean the Kyoto Protocol was dead, Mr Pronk replied: "It would be utterly sick."

He ended the news conference by saying: "Let me not raise expectations too high. I'm in danger of getting carried away."

Ian Willmore, of Friends of the Earth UK, told BBC News Online: "Mr Pronk has put his credibility on the line by insisting that these talks can succeed.

"He must get agreement from every developed country and isolate the US. This looks highly unlikely, given the position of Japan, Australia and some other countries."

German police drag away a protester
Some countries want to reopen the debate about using nuclear power
A European Union official earlier told BBC News Online: "If the political will were there you could cut through the outstanding issues. But what we're seeing is a hardening of positions by some countries.

"The talks certainly aren't going forwards at all. They're either stagnant, or moving backwards."

Japanese support needed

The US, the world's biggest polluter, pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol last March, and the Bonn talks are trying to find a way for the remaining signatories to ratify it.

A Japanese protester in George Bush mask flashes a banner urging the government to ratify the Kyoto treaty.
Japan's support is vital for the Kyoto pact
The hope is that it will enter into force in 2002.

Unless Japan agrees to ratify the protocol, there will be too few of the main polluting countries supporting it to allow its entry into force.

But Japan, unwilling to ratify Kyoto without the support of its close ally the US, is trying to extract far-reaching concessions as the price for its adherence.

It is pressing to be allowed to make more use than other countries of what are called "carbon sinks" - forests, grassland and other vegetation which absorbs carbon dioxide, and can be counted against a country's emissions reduction target.

It is also resisting all the proposals currently on the table about securing compliance with the protocol.

Nuclear power

Three other countries, Russia, Canada and Australia, want to reopen the argument about the use of nuclear power in combating global warming.

The Hague meeting reached broad agreement that nuclear power projects should not be part of the treaty's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

This allows industrialised countries to finance emissions-reducing projects in developing countries and then to claim credits against their own targets.

But the three countries now say nuclear power should be included in the CDM after all.

See also:

15 Jul 01 | Europe
Storm clouds over climate talks
09 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan to press US on Kyoto
03 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Japan worried on climate treaty
30 Mar 01 | Americas
Kyoto: Why did the US pull out?
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