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Friday, 15 June, 2001, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Kjell Larsson, Sweden's Environment minister quizzed
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At his summit with EU leaders, US President George W Bush has come under fire for his stance on the environment.

Europeans are angry that the Bush administration has abandoned its commitment to the Kyoto agreement to combat global warming.

The EU has said that it will continue with the implementation of Kyoto, with or without American involvement.

But many experts say that without the US, the world's biggest polluter, Kyoto is as good as dead.

So is there any room for compromise between Americans and Europeans on this issue. Will this meeting produce any progress?

Sweden currently hold the presidency of the EU. The Swedish Environment minister, Kjell Larsson, took your questions in a live Forum from Gothenburg.


Highlights of the interview:


Newshost:

Mr Larsson thank you very much for joining us. The rejection of the Kyoto protocol by the US has fuelled a lot of debate on both sides of the Atlantic and we have certainly got a lot of e-mails on the issue. The first one comes from Anca , Cluj-Napoca in Romania, she asks: if the Kyoto treaty is so important, why has only Romania ratified it as yet? The second question is similar - it is from John King in Oregon, US and he asks: when do you expect the other member states to ratify the Kyoto Protocols?


Kjell Larsson:

There are technical problems that have to be sorted out before we ratify it. That is what all the negotiations have been about in Buenos Aires and up to the negotiations in the Hague last year. We will continue with that in Bonn this summer in order to make it possible to ratify it.

The objective of all European Union countries now is to ratify before 2002 - before the summit in Johannesburg in 2002. That is also symbolically important because the climate convention is, if you want, the child of the real meeting. We want to show the meeting in Johannesburg that we have been able to act decisively on what is the most pressing future issue.


Newshost:

What is the situation with Romania? How come they have ratified it already?


Kjell Larsson:

I don't know. It is perhaps a political sign of theirs to show the importance of the protocol and perhaps they have been confident about good results in the negotiations.


Newshost:

The next e-mail comes from John, Minneapolis USA he asks: why is Europe demonising President Bush so much on the Kyoto agreement? The United States senate voted 95-0 against the treaty. It clearly is not something that would benefit America. It would benefit Europe. Don't you think there has to be give and take on both sides? I have heard both sides and am more inclined to believe that a different treaty would benefit all sides.


Kjell Larsson:

I don't think we have demonised the president. I think we should have room for an open discussion across the Atlantic among friends and allies. We have given our strong view on the American position and they have certainly given their strong view of what they regard as weaknesses within the Kyoto Protocol. But the important thing for us is that all countries except the United States are now prepared to go on negotiating on the basis of the Kyoto Protocol which shows there is a strong confidence that the Protocol is a good instrument for the world's society to combat climate change.


Newshost:

Robert in South Africa asks: what can be done by Europe to compel the US to submit to crucial environmental agreements like the Kyoto Agreement?


Kjell Larsson:

There is the same open language, the same open discussions as I described previously. We are all very interested in continuing discussions with America -to co-operate with them even though they are not in the Kyoto Protocol. For instance on technical development issues - there might be scientific problems in the technical field but we can solve them better together than apart. So we will continue with the Kyoto process as far as we can and we will continue to discuss with and to co-operate with the Americans.


Newshost:

Elysia in the UK asks: one of the reasons given by President Bush for his rejection of the Kyoto Treaty is that there is need for further research in the area as a treaty based on analysis of figures for the last 20 years might not give a true picture of what's really going on. Given this point of view how can you justify your attacks on President Bush's policies?


Kjell Larsson:

We are listening to scientists and to quite a strong consensus among scientists that we have now global warming happening here today and the consequences of a continuing global warming will be very dangerous for the environment and for humans in the future. I think these warnings are enough for us to say that now we must take real action and the only way to take real action now is the Kyoto Protocol.


Newshost:

Another e-mail here from the UK, Lee in Horsham asks: President Bush has said the Kyoto Agreement will harm US industry. Why not impose a polluters' levy on all US exports to make it in their interest to sign up? He suggests also that this money could then be used by the EU to invest in more technology and reduce our contribution to global warming.


Kjell Larsson:

I don't think that is practical but I would like to think about it. Of course there are costs connected to combating climate change. I think the costs are exaggerated by the Americans. At the same time we must think about the fact that there are costs connected also with climate change in the future and there are economic possibilities connected with developing the new clean technologies that we have to develop. I believe there will be a great advantage for early movers in this field.


Newshost:

Steve Frank, Cincinnati USA asks: how much money will it cost and how many jobs will be lost not only in the United States but in Europe if the Kyoto Accords are implemented? And if the Kyoto Accords are implemented, can you be sure that global warming might not occur anyway?


Kjell Larsson:

We will have global warming. These processes are so slow that even if we stopped emitting greenhouse today - totally - we would have continuing global warming for a couple years or perhaps decades into the future. That is one reason why it is so important to start acting as soon as possible. We have already waited too long to do real action. I don't think one should exaggerate the costs. We have lot of investigations now showing that the costs are not as big as many people believe. As I have said before, there are huge opportunities in developing the technologies in starting production of all groups that are connected to clean, new technologies. I believe the net result might very well be an increase in growth and increase in employment.


Newshost:

Phil, Los Angeles, USA asks: the U.S. objects to Kyoto in principle, because the government feels that it is not scientifically proven and because it wouldn't cover developing nations. The EU governments feel that Kyoto is scientifically sound and agree with it as a matter of principle. However, they say that if the U.S. doesn't agree to it then they are not going to ratify it. Isn't it rather unprincipled of the EU governments to not ratify something that they say they believe in with or without the US?


Kjell Larsson:

I think there is a misunderstanding here because we have had a very clear position ever since President Bush said no to the Kyoto Protocol that we would try to convince other countries in the world in order to be able to ratify the Kyoto Protocol also if the United States are not with us.

Of course it would be very difficult for us to say that because only one country stays outside the global environmental negotiations, then all other countries should follow that country. Even though the United States has a large share of the emissions - 25% of total emissions. Of course the protocol will not be as good without the United States as it would have been with the United States. But I feel that other countries must take the responsibility and do the best in the situation and the best as I see it is to try to ratify it also without the United States.

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