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DAVID FROST: Well the Climate Change Conference in the Hague broke up amid recriminations and anger. Attempts by the UK to broker a deal between the Americans and the EU delegations ended after the French minister, among others, accused America of trying to sweep aside the Kyoto agreement and seek new polls in their own targets to cut greenhouse gasses. Now one man who knows all about this who can explain it all to us is our Environment Minister Michael Meacher, Michael good morning.

MICHAEL MEACHER: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: It looks very dramatic, sounds very dramatic, how long did you have without sleep?

MICHAEL MEACHER: Thirty six hours.

DAVID FROST: Thirty six hours, and did we nearly make it and who was to blame?

MICHAEL MEACHER: I think we really did very nearly break it, make it┐that's a Freudian slip┐

DAVID FROST: Yes.

MICHAEL MEACHER: I, I think this is the most complex set of detailed negotiations on climate change that we've had, basically we ran out of time, it may sound a bit crass but it's true. We had to vacate at 4 o'clock in this enormous conference hall, we had an all night negotiating session the night before, there was a deal there which I have to say the British did put into place, it wouldn't have been there otherwise, I think it was a pretty good deal and I would certainly have very strongly have backed it. There were a number of loose ends, there were uncertainties about some of the information and we just simply didn't have the time to pull it all together.

DAVID FROST: And was it, was it in the end the fact that the Americans were coming around responding to what John and yourself were do┐John Prescott and yourself were doing, but that it was the European nations as we've heard who thought it was too much of a, too much of a compromise the American way?

MICHAEL MEACHER: Well I can understand that point of view, I think it was the wrong decision to be made on it, I think we had squeezed the Americans to a minimum. The big issue is carbon sinks I mean forests absorb carbon, how much do you allow the Americans, Canada, Japan to meet their targets through their forests, that's, that's the issue. Now there were two ways you can do it, you can buy forests or plant forests abroad and use the, the credits that you get abroad for doing that, we completely blocked that so that there would be no carbon sinks in what's called the clean development mechanism in developing countries. The issue then is how far you can use carbon sinks in your own country. Now we brought that down to a minimum figure, America for example has to reduce by about 600 million tonnes of carbon a year, we reduced it to about 75 million tonnes, I think maybe that's a bit more than we would like but it's perfectly wearable and if that's the price for a deal I think it would have been well worth it. Now we had a discussion in the EU delegation, we had so many discussions in the EU I've almost forgotten the number but at the end they were still asking questions, no one said we're turning it down, the French presidency clearly had its doubts, some of the other nations had their doubts and at the end lack of time, lack of commitment perhaps and it faded, it is a tragedy but it is not something that is a disaster forever. We will return to this in the early part of next year and I'm convinced we will then get an agreement.

DAVID FROST: Because a the moment I suppose technically there's no Kyoto agreement in force so everyone's free to pollute as much as they want?

MICHAEL MEACHER: Well┐

DAVID FROST: Theoretically?

END

MICHAEL MEACHER: We all signed up to targets at Kyoto three years ago, it doesn't come into force until you ratify, we cannot ratify before 2002, you need 55 countries, about 170 in the world, 55 countries have got to ratify and they must account, they've got to be big countries accounting for 55 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. So there's quite a high thresh-hold, now again we can reach that, I'm still convinced that we can reach that but of course you've got to have the mechanisms in place which we're all agreed about and that's what this conference is about, the mechanisms to deliver the targets.

DAVID FROST: But Michael if we failed to get an agreement at this one, the next one early next year is good news because some of the papers say late next year, but early next year, why will it be any different? MICHAEL MEACHER: Well I think it'll be┐

DAVID FROST: Why will they agree then if they couldn't agree now?

MICHAEL MEACHER: Well I think, well partly because of course there will be more time, we're all going to be reflecting on what happened, we're going to put together an agreement even before we get to the conference which has been brokered between our capitals and because all countries, this is the basic point, all countries want an agreement, we are seeing what is happening in the atmosphere, the storms, the floods in the UK, the hurricanes, to the tornadoes, all over the world they're increasing and all countries are affected including America and Canada and Japan. They want an agreement it's just a question of that final detail. We did fail last night, it is a tragedy but it's a reversible tragedy and we will now put together those last final loose ends that we didn't have the time to do last night.

DAVID FROST: So the work of the last three years looks as though it might have been destroyed but you're saying it hasn't?

MICHAEL MEACHER: Oh there's no question that it hasn't, I mean this is not something that the world can walk away from, I mean if we fail this time we've got to come back to it. We absolutely, everyone in the world, every country in the world is a victim of climate change, we all have the same incentive to reach agreement and we will.

DAVID FROST: Michael thank you very much indeed. Michael Meacher on Kyoto part two.

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