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Wednesday, November 3, 1999 Published at 16:01 GMT


Sci/Tech

Climate treaty worries emerge in Bonn

Bangladesh expects to suffer worse flooding as temperatures rise

By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby

Delegates at the climate change conference in Bonn, due to end on 4 November, are expressing serious doubts that the international agreement, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, is adequate to address the threat of global warming.

The meeting, the fifth conference of the parties (COP5) to the UN's framework convention on climate change, has the task of elaborating the technical details of the protocol.

The European Union has said it is "willing and ready" to ratify the protocol, although its readiness appears to be conditional on other countries doing so as well. The United Kingdom's Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, urged ratification by 2002.


[ image: Stabilising carbon emissions is proving a tough nut to crack]
Stabilising carbon emissions is proving a tough nut to crack
Only 14 countries, all from the developing world, have so far ratified it. It will enter into force only when at least 55 have done so, including developed countries responsible for at least 55% of the industrialised world's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

But the Italian Environment Minister, Edo Ronchi, told delegates that EU agreement on ratification would be significant but not enough. He said Europe produced 24.2% of CO2 emissions, against 36.1% from the US.

Quotas for sale


The BBC's Margaret Gilmore: "A treaty without America would be weak"
The protocol has been criticised in the US Senate for supposedly demanding too much from industrialised countries and too little from developing ones, which face no binding emission limits. Argentina, classified as a developing country, is the first to say it will observe a self-imposed limit.

The US wants to work towards the protocol's aim (an overall cut by developed countries of 5.2% in emissions from their 1990 levels by 2012) by buying up the unused emissions quotas allowed to low-polluting countries.


[ image: Weaning the world off fossil fuels will take time]
Weaning the world off fossil fuels will take time
This would mean, for example, that the US could pay a country like Ukraine for the right to emissions Ukraine could not afford to make.

But critics say some countries' emission levels have been set unrealistically high, and that this system of trading would end up simply selling "hot air" to the highest bidder, without doing anything actually to reduce the rich world's emissions.

A senior Chinese official, Liu Jiang, told the conference that few developed countries were sincerely ready to limit their emissions, which in most of them were actually rising.

High price

One expected consequence of a warming climate will be rising sea levels, and some of the 43 members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) say they are already being affected.


[ image:  ]
The AOSIS representative, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Samoa's ambassador to the UN, said the developing countries' emissions were rising "out of control".

Bangladesh's Environment Minister, Syeda Sajeda Chowdury, said climate change had already caused devastating floods in her country last year.

"We are an insignificant contributor as far as global warming is concerned, yet we may have to pay a high price for which we are not responsible."

The head of the UN Environment Programme, Dr Klaus Toepfer, told delegates the priority was to end grinding poverty, and to reduce the very high consumption levels of the rich.

The Kyoto Protocol's supporters hope to complete the detailed work on its mechanisms at a meeting in the Hague in a year's time, and to have it ratified in 2002, a decade after the Rio earth summit.

Many scientists say cuts 10 times larger than the protocol provides for are needed immediately in order to avert serious climate disruption.



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