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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore in the Hague
"For thousands of negotiators this is the most important gathering in years"
 real 56k

Climatologist, Dr Jason Lowe
"To stabilise greenhouse gases today, we have to cut emissions by 60%"
 real 56k

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt
"It was clear from the start that this was a serious negociating meeting"
 real 28k

Monday, 13 November, 2000, 14:22 GMT
Climate talks search for progress
Cop6 AP
Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk opens the meeting
Representatives of more than 150 governments have gathered in the Netherlands for a new round of negotiations on the United Nations' convention on climate change.


The Americans...are very much the villains of the piece

Sir Crispin Tickell, former British ambassador to the UN
A meeting in the Japanese city of Kyoto three years ago sought to limit the amount of the so-called "greenhouse gases" each country could emit in order to check the trend towards global warming. But, as yet, the protocol agreed between the world's nations has yet to come into force.

The Sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties (Cop6) UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will attempt to move the signatories closer to final approval and implementation of the Kyoto action plan.

"The Hague conference is a make-or-break opportunity for climate change treaties,'' said Michael Zammit Cutajar, the convention's executive secretary.

It will be next week, at the earliest, before Cop6 comes to any conclusions. Only in the last few days of the conference will ministers have talks behind closed doors to finalise decisions.

Fuel costs

Sir Crispin Tickell, the former British ambassador to the UN, told BBC News Online's special climate change webcast that success or otherwise at The Hague would depend on the attitude taken by the US.

"We have a real problem in so far as the biggest industrial country in the world has not even submitted the agreement to Congress," he said.

Flood PA
The UK is struggling to cope with heavy rainfall and floods
"The Americans in this area are very much the villains of the piece. They've not gone along with Kyoto and yet they are unquestionably the largest polluter with 4% of the world's population and 25% of greenhouse gas emissions."

But the pressure is on to reach an agreement at The Hague with several countries now experiencing their worst weather conditions in recent memory, including in the UK where heavy rainfall has resulted in the worst floods for 50 years.

Many scientists and environmental groups argue these storms are the direct result of years of carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.

 Click here to watch Alex Kirby present our webcast from the Thames barrier in London

And although global temperatures are clearly rising - the 1990s was the hottest decade on record - the direct impact from greenhouse gas emissions remains under debate.

The problem for Cop6 delegates is that cutting emissions will not be painless.

The Kyoto Protocol requires the world to burn less oil, gas and coal, which means making heating, power and transport more expensive for consumers.

'Flexibility mechanisms'

Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk is head of the conference and is be trying to rouse all the countries attending the meeting to effective action.


The Hague conference is a make-or-break opportunity for climate change treaties

Michael Zammit Cutajar, executive secretary
"The evidence is mounting," he said in his opening statement. "The greenhouse gases we produce are having a visible impact on the environment."

Kyoto calls for a cut in the six main greenhouse gases to 5.2% below their 1990 level by no later than 2012.

To make the targets easier and cheaper to meet, Kyoto put up the idea of "flexibility mechanisms".

These would allow nations to buy and sell the right to emit gases, plant forests to soak up carbon dioxide, and invest in pollution control measures in other countries. But the detail of how these mechanisms should work has led to deep divisions.

Lobby groups

So far, only about 30 countries have ratified the Kyoto protocol, and these are mostly developing nations that are not being asked to make many sacrifices.

The countries which are being asked to make cuts say they will not ratify until they know the details of how the protocol will work and that is what has to be hammered out now in The Hague.

The protocol will not come into force until 55 states producing a total of 55% of the world's carbon emissions approve its detail.

The talks are being lobbied by various pressure groups. Green groups are arguing for stricter emissions controls.

The nuclear industry is highlighting itself as an alternative to continued fossil fuel usage, and oil-producing nations are calling for compensation for the impact of reduced oil consumption on their economies.

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See also:

11 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
'Massive' pollution cuts needed
11 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
Clinton's climate change warning
06 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
Climate treaty 'robs the poor'
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