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Thursday, October 28, 1999 Published at 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK


Germany firm on climate change

Calm waters in Bonn - but it may not all be plain sailing

The German chancellor has called on all industrialised nations to agree by 2002 to cut emissions of the greenhouses gases that cause global warming.

Speaking at the opening of the fifth UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Gerhard Schroeder urged the 5,000 delegates from 150 countries to ratify the 1997 Kyoto protocol.

This commits developed countries to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) and five other greenhouse gas emissions from their 1990 levels by 5.2% by 2008-12.

[ image: The chancellor sees Kyoto as a big breakthrough]
The chancellor sees Kyoto as a big breakthrough
Mr Schroeder asked delegates to implement these cuts domestically.

The chancellor said that Germany had agreed in 1995 to cut CO2 emissions by 25%.

He added that his country had already made cuts of 13% and he predicted the reductions would reach 17% by 2005.

But despite the chancellor's pleas, the Bonn conference is largely seen as a technical meeting unlikely to produce dramatic political developments.

The Kyoto protocol will only enter into force when at least 55 countries have ratified it.

Yet, so far only 14 countries - all from the developing world - have ratified it. Most ominously, the world's biggest emitter, the US, has not.

[ image: Is the world losing interest in climate change?]
Is the world losing interest in climate change?
The European Union is committed to cuts of 8%, with the UK promising to reduce its emissions by 12.5%, reflecting its role as a significant polluter.

The European Parliament says to meet the Kyoto targets, the energy efficiency of EU members will have to increase by 2.5% annually.

But figures published by Eurostat, the EU's statistical office, show that for the first seven years of the 1990s efficiency remained static.

Some countries did improve, others became less efficient, and some - the UK among them - reported no change.

The Bonn meeting will try to elaborate three "flexibility mechanisms" in the Kyoto protocol:

  • the clean development mechanism, to encourage investment in developing country clean technology projects
  • the joint implementation programme, offering credits for contributing to projects in other developed countries
  • an emissions trading regime, to allow developed countries to buy and sell emissions credits among themselves.

It is all vital technical detail. But those who believe that climate change is real say it will be nowhere near enough.

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