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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 13:30 GMT
Sceptics 'threaten' climate pact
Bangladesh factory smoke
Countries have agreed to cut emissions by 2012
Environmentalists at climate talks in Morocco say Australia and Japan are leading moves to renege on agreements, made just four months ago, to tackle global warming.

More than 4,000 delegates from 163 countries are in their second week of talks in Marrakech trying to draft the legal language to give effect to the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to counter what some scientists perceive to be human-induced climate change.

Australia and others are spearheading a campaign ... to go back on their word

Greenpeace's Bill Hair
The Marrakech meeting, known as COP7 (the seventh conference of the parties) has to write the rule book for Kyoto.

It hopes enough signatories will ratify it at next year's World Summit on Sustainable Development for it to enter into force.

Discussions were expected to be largely technical, finalising a hard-fought political deal reached in Bonn, Germany.

But environmental activists complain Australia and Japan and two other sceptic nations, Canada and Russia, are opposing the binding compliance system agreed in Bonn, and raising new demands.

The latest difficulties come one day after reports from Japan said Tokyo had decided to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Bonn 'success'

The agreement reached four months ago in Germany was hailed as a great success despite the fact that the United States, the country producing the most greenhouse gases, has withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol and played virtually no part in the talks.

Kyoto after Bonn
Targets six greenhouse gases
By 2012 emissions must be 2% down on 1990 levels
Must be ratified by 55 countries responsible for 55% of emissions
US accounts for nearly 25% of emissions
Japan accounts for about 9%
It was a package deal in which all sides accepted some concessions for the sake of getting a deal and it proved that the international plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions could still go ahead even without the US.

But environmental activists like Bill Hair of Greenpeace say climate sceptics are now trying to go back on what they promised at the last meeting.

"It's outrageous behaviour," he said. "The Bonn agreement involved the surrendering of key issues by the European Union and developing countries, and in exchange the European Union and developing countries got an understanding there would be a binding compliance system.

"Now, Australia and others have been spearheading a campaign to completely unravel that, in other words to go back on their word."

Election issue

Bill Hair says he is particularly incensed by the behaviour of the Australian delegation because the country is just days away from a general election.

Former US President George Bush and Australian PM John Howard
Some critics say Australian policy is unduly influenced by the US
The present government led by Prime Minister John Howard has made it clear it does not intend to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

The opposition Labor Party has made a campaign issue of climate change, wooing Green Party support by saying that it does plan to ratify.

Although the delegation members say they are behaving merely as caretakers and not in any way pre-empting the election outcome, their critics still say they are playing far too prominent a role in the climate sceptics camp for an administration that may have only days left in office.

See also:

05 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Japan 'to back climate treaty'
01 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Kyoto 'not a done deal yet'
29 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Climate roadshow rumbles on
17 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Global warming fight 'jeopardised'
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