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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
The Bonn deal: Winners and losers
Smoke emission
Greenpeace has dubbed the agreement 'Kyoto Lite'
By BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby in Bonn

The Bonn climate agreement is a compromise, with winners and losers.


I think we can now go home and look our children in the eye

Margot Wallstrom
EU Environment Commissioner
Some participants gained all they had come for, and more. Some gave away more than they had meant to.

And some who were not here at all may have cause to remember Bonn with chagrin.

The European Union certainly gave away things it held dear, notably on forests. These are an example of the quaintly named "carbon sinks" - vegetation which absorbs carbon dioxide.

Avoiding cuts

The EU does not like sinks much, because it believes they give countries an excuse to avoid making real cuts in pollution from industry, transport and homes.

But the EU had to yield to demands from several leading members of what is known here as the Umbrella Group, who wanted to make generous use of sinks.

Japanese Environmental Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi
Japan was the clear winner
These are four heavily forested countries that account for 70% of the land surface of the states that have to cut pollution under the Kyoto Protocol - Japan, Russia, Canada and Australia.

John Lanchbery, of the UK's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, has followed the climate negotiations for years.

"The EU desperately wanted a deal, and it gave away far more on sinks than it wanted to. It made some severe compromises," he told BBC News Online.

"But you could describe Japan as a clear winner. Everyone wanted to have it on board, because its support was crucial to the protocol's survival. So it was in a very strong position, and it made the most of it."

Damage inflicted

The developing countries are probably leaving Bonn in a happier state of mind than when they arrived.

They have secured promises of significant funding to help them to adapt to climate change, for technology transfer, capacity building and sustainable development.

President George Bush
Bush was dealt a double blow, say campaigners
But Bonn will be remembered as a place that inflicted damage on a man who was not here at all.

President Bush declared last March that the US would not ratify the protocol, which he described as "fatally flawed".

The US is the world's biggest polluter - and its biggest economy - and there were many who thought it would be impossible to secure a deal on Kyoto without the US being involved.

Bonn has proved them wrong. And it has probably given the EU something which in the long run will outweigh the compromises it had to make on sinks: political self-confidence.

The European Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, said after the deal had been struck: "I think something has changed today in the balance of power between the US and the EU."

Marked retreat

There has been another loser here: the atmosphere.


Japan's decision to support Kyoto despite the US repudiation is perhaps Tokyo's biggest declaration of independence from the Americans since World War II

Phil Clapp
National Environmental Trust

The cuts in greenhouse emissions that the Bonn deal will achieve will, according to environmental campaigners, prove to be only about 2% of their 1990 levels by the cut-off date in 2012.

After that there will be a new set of targets, this time including developing countries.

The original protocol, agreed in 1997, committed signatories to cuts more than twice as great - an average of 5.2% on 1990 emissions.

So the Bonn compromise is a marked retreat from the modest step the world had been planning to take - modest, because many climate scientists say emission cuts of more than 50% will be needed some time this century.

Winning back the US

In a telling phrase, Greenpeace described the emerging compromise as "Kyoto Lite", but it is a start.

And the Belgian Energy Minister, Olivier Deleuze, probably spoke for many other delegates when he said: "I prefer an imperfect, living agreement to a perfect one that doesn't exist."

He even held out hope that Bonn might be the start of the road to winning the US back.

"To bring the US on board," he said, "we first had to have a boat. Now we've got a boat. So I think the conversation with the US could become easier."

Gains outweigh losses

Phil Clapp, of the National Environmental Trust, a US group, believes the Bonn compromise will deliver real and valuable cuts in emissions.

He told BBC News Online he thought President Bush had suffered a double blow.

"Europe has shown it is capable of assuming the world's moral leadership without defining it in terms as crude as nuclear throw weight," he said.

"And Japan's decision to support Kyoto despite the US repudiation is perhaps Tokyo's biggest declaration of independence from the Americans since World War II."

No-one will be leaving Bonn convinced that the deal is perfect, but many believe the gains outweigh the losses.

And Margot Wallstrom struck a chord when she said: "I think we can now go home and look our children in the eye."

See also:

23 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Beckett hails new Kyoto deal
22 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
'Time running out' at climate talks
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?
22 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Climate compromise hangs in balance
23 Jul 01 | UK Politics
UK hails new Kyoto deal
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