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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 23:26 GMT
Marrakech nudges climate treaty onwards
Camels   AP
Marrakech made progress on helping developing countries
Alex Kirby

The Morocco climate conference succeeded in patching together a compromise which every country could endorse.

The optimists say it was at least a working compromise, a springboard for serious action later.

The pessimists say it was what always happens at meetings like this - more dilution of previous agreements.

What Marrakech certainly means is that the Kyoto Protocol can now enter into force.

The conference - Cop7, the seventh conference of the parties to the protocol - had to work out the Kyoto rulebook.

It had to fine-tune the political agreement reached in Bonn last July, when the protocol's signatories agreed in outline to support it.

Testing effectiveness

The protocol is the global climate treaty. It requires industrialised countries to reduce their emissions of the main gases believed to be exacerbating natural climate change by about 2% on their 1990 levels within the next decade.

It is part of the United Nations' climate change convention, whose executive secretary is Michael Zammit Cutajar.

Japanese environment minister   AFP
Japan played a key part
He said: "After several years of tough negotiation, the institutions and detailed procedures of the Kyoto Protocol are now in place. The next step is to test their effectiveness."

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change, based in Washington DC, welcomed the Marrakech agreement.

The centre's president, Eileen Claussen, called it "a critical and commendable step forward . . . a workable framework for action".

But doubts remain about the value of what Marrakech achieved, and whether it could have done more.

Many climate scientists say the 2% emissions cuts it will achieve are purely symbolic, with cuts of 60% or more needed within the next few decades to keep climate change within tolerable bounds.

Over a barrel

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

He told BBC News Online: "Marrakech was necessary. It was the only way to get a deal that anyone would ratify.

Dried river bed   AP
Morocco itself has experienced drought problems
"But the world could have done better. There was no need to give away so much to Russia over the use it can make of its forests to absorb carbon dioxide.

"It, Australia, Canada and Japan were going for all they could get. They had everyone else over a barrel.

"But Russia did promise to ratify Kyoto. When you add the European Union, the central and eastern European countries which want to join the EU, and Japan, that should mean you've got enough countries to secure ratification.

"So it was disappointing, but we should be able to go forward from here. There are no more obstacles to ratification - we can go home and do it."

Marrakech eroded what had been agreed in Bonn, which itself signalled a retreat from the deal available earlier.

Marrakech also suffered from the refusal of the US to sign it. President Bush has disowned the protocol, saying the US will never support it. But Kyoto does look like being ratified, so Marrakech is one small step.

See also:

10 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Climate conference reaches deal
08 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Climate treaty's 'minimal' impact
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