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Friday, 6 April, 2001, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Prodi 'shocked' by Bush climate stand
Storm on coast, English Channel PA
Stormy weather ahead - for the protocol and for the planet
By BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby

The European Commission president, Romano Prodi, says Europe will implement the Kyoto Protocol no matter what the US does.

President Bush has refused to ratify it, saying it places an unacceptable economic burden on the US, while demanding nothing of developing countries.

But Mr Prodi says discarding the protocol "would be a tragic mistake."

He insists that the European Union will make Kyoto work, despite the "shocking" US stance.

Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Mr Prodi tackles both of Mr Bush's objections to the protocol, the international treaty on curbing the greenhouse gases scientists believe are causing climate change.

Flexible

The protocol requires 38 industrialised countries to cut their emissions of six gases by an average of 5.2% below their 1990 levels within the next decade. US emissions would have to be cut by 7%.

Romano Prodi AP
Romano Prodi feels the heat
Mr Prodi writes: "Some claim the Kyoto Protocol is too expensive for US industry to implement. But it provides flexibility which the US can use to reduce the costs.

"If the Bush administration finds the US targets too ambitious, that is not an argument for discarding the whole agreement.

"Some say the protocol is not fair because it excludes developing countries. But surely we in the industrialised world, who have contributed most to causing this problem, should be first to contribute to its solution.

"Is there any fairness in the fact that US emissions are ten times more per person than those in the developing world?

"The message that the US will not make an effort unless others much less able to do so make an effort as well is shocking to European ears."

Mr Prodi ends with a warning: "We in the EU do not see a solution to the climate problem outside the Kyoto Protocol, and the EU remains committed to it - with or without the US."

The article refers to "the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion" which Mr Prodi says agrees that climate change is a major problem.

The leading scientific body involved is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), chaired by Dr Robert Watson.

No cost

He told journalists in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where the IPCC is meeting, that tackling climate change need not be nearly so expensive as Mr Bush appears to believe.

Dr Watson said half the expected increase in greenhouse gases between now and 2020 could be prevented at no cost at all.

"We have seen a significant advance in technologies in the last five years, hydrogen power, fuel cell technologies, a wide range of technologies that have succeeded at a faster rate than we thought", he said.

George Bush AFP
Bush seeks US' best interest - but how?
If industrialised countries took the least cost-effective steps, Dr Watson said, the total cost of meeting their Kyoto commitments would be from 0.2 to 2% of gross domestic product.

The most cost-effective measures would cut the cost to between 0.1 and 1% of GDP.

"It is up to individual governments to decide if 0.1 or less, or 1% of GDP, is a large economic cost", Dr Watson said.

Consensus

"But that does not take into account that there are benefits of avoiding climate change."

He said that if the US, responsible for between 20 and 25% of global greenhouse emissions, did not ratify Kyoto, "then clearly the emissions will not be reduced by an average 5% - it will be significantly less than that."

And Dr Watson rejected the claim that the scientific community was evenly divided on the reality and gravity of climate change.

Commitment

He said he thought something like 98% of scientists supported the IPCC's analysis.

An EU mission is in Moscow for talks aimed at building a firm alliance of countries committed to implementing the Kyoto treaty.

Russia is the world's biggest polluter after the US and so its continued commitment to the treaty is crucial.

After Moscow, the delegation heads for Iran, which represents developing countries at the climate change talks, and will also visit China and Japan.

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See also:

28 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
US blow to Kyoto hopes
29 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
US facing climate isolation
03 Apr 01 | Americas
Anger as US abandons climate treaty
06 Apr 01 | Americas
EU seeks Moscow backing on climate
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