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Saturday, 21 July, 2001, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Kyoto approaches 'moment of truth'
Bonn protestor wearing a gas mask
Some say cutting pollution will reduce global warming
By BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby

The head of the European Union delegation at the climate talks here says negotiations must soon end, because the moment of truth is approaching.

Olivier Deleuze, the Belgian energy minister, said the conference was awaiting "a comprehensive global text" within hours.

The UK and Germany are key players in the search for a deal.

Protestors build ice sculpture of the earth
Climatic change could lead to warming or another ice age
The G77 group of developing countries is working with them.

Mr Deleuze was speaking at what he said might be "one of the last news conferences of these talks".

He said: "The moment of truth is approaching. We've been discussing climate change for 10 years.

"We shouldn't prolong the discussions for years more, or even months. We've been talking long enough, and meanwhile the problem of climate change gets worse and worse.

Launch new window : Glossary
Click above to launch a climate change glossary.

"The process is speeding up. We're waiting for a comprehensive global text on which we'll have to negotiate, proposed by the conference president, Jan Pronk."

Mr Deleuze said the purpose of the text was to allow the conference "to enter into crucial, final, short negotiations".

I wouldn't say that I'm over-optimistic... The EU is prepared to compromise on sinks, but not on nuclear power

Olivier Deleuze
Belgium's energy minister
The issues on which the conference will have to agree include "carbon sinks" - forests, grassland and other vegetation which can absorb carbon dioxide.

Japan, Russia, Canada and Australia want to be allowed to make much wider use of sinks in reaching their emissions reduction targets under the climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, than the EU is happy to see.

It fears they will allow countries to avoid real cuts in emissions from industry and transport.

Nuclear power

Another contentious issue is whether industrialised countries should be allowed to fund nuclear power projects in the developing world, and count the carbon savings they achieve towards their own reduction targets.

Mr Deleuze said: "I wouldn't say that I'm over-optimistic. Truth is about willingness to have an agreement that's environmentally sound. The EU is prepared to compromise on sinks, but not on nuclear power."

Man with Bush effigy in Bonn river
Protesters condemn the US president's stance on global warming
The third problem area is how to ensure compliance with the protocol if it does enter into force, and here the EU is not prepared to give ground to those arguing for a voluntary approach.

The EU environment commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, told the news conference: "Compliance remains an absolute must for the EU."

She did however say that the atmosphere at the talks was "good and promising".

Sign up or step out

Some delegates expect that the comprehensive text, once Mr Pronk has unveiled it, will be presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis - "sign up or step out", as one put it.

Sources have told BBC News Online that it has been put together by John Prescott, the UK's deputy prime minister, Juergen Trittin, the German environment minister, and the G77 developing countries group.

Some G77 ministers are due to leave for home at the end of the day's talks, so time is short.

There is a will to reach an agreement: members of both the Canadian and the Japanese delegations have said they cannot go home empty-handed again, as they did from last November's failed talks in The Hague.

There is a growing feeling that Bonn should reach a decision and not defer "the moment of truth" to the next round of talks, due to take place in Morocco in October.

"As time passes", one delegate told BBC News Online, "things can only get worse."

The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"The various delegations will study the proposal overnight"
John Gummer, Former Environment Secretary
"These talks give the world a chance to create circumstances for climate change not to overwhelm us"
Olivier Deleuze, head of the EU delegation
"If there is a deal, it will be in less than one day"
Mark Johnston, of Friends of the Earth International
"We're pleased to have reached this stage. but the next 24 hours are crucial"
See also:

20 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Researchers have hot expectations
19 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Ministers bid to save climate treaty
15 Jul 01 | Europe
Storm clouds over climate talks
09 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan to press US on Kyoto
30 Mar 01 | Americas
Kyoto: Why did the US pull out?
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