Earth summit agrees Kyoto compromise
JOHANNESBURG - Ministers at the Earth Summit agreed on Saturday a declaration to support the Kyoto climate change pact without embarrassing the United States, the only major state to shun the treaty.
\"We have agreed on Kyoto,\" Danish Environment minister Hans Christian Schmidt told Reuters during a break in the talks at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
In a small but significant breakthrough at talks which have shown little movement for several days, ministers agreed a compromise text that was acceptable to both and pro-Kyoto countries and those which have rejected it.
Pro-Kyoto countries wanted the summit\'s action plan to call on governments to back the pact, but this was resisted by the Washington which withdrew from the climate change deal last year.
The agreed text reads: \"States that have ratified strongly urge those that have not done so to ratify Kyoto in a timely manner,\" according to a copy seen by Reuters.
Effectively, this avoids the contradictory situation of having anti-Kyoto countries like the United States be part of a motion to back the treaty, while at least retaining a reference to the controversial pact.
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol required developed countries to reduce their emissions of \"greenhouse gases\" blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere with possibly catastrophic results.
To come into force, it must be ratified by countries that make up 55 percent of developed countries\' emissions. Without the United States, which emits one third of the total, it must be backed by most other developed countries.
NO BACKING DOWN
The text also includes a reference to richer countries acting first to fight climate change, a principle that was agreed 10 years ago at the Rio Earth Summit but that environmentalists said was under threat in Johannesburg.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth gave the text a cautious welcome.
\"They (ministers) haven\'t backtracked under pressure from the United States but it\'s not a sign of progress either as they still haven\'t agreed to new targets on renewable energy,\" FOE campaigner Kate Hampton said.
The United States, Japan and some other developed countries are resisting efforts to set a non-binding target for increasing the world use of \"clean\" energies like wind and solar power.
The European Union wants a target as do some developing countries, particularly in Latin America. The G77 group of developing countries is split on the issue largely due to resistance from its OPEC members, diplomats said.
Schmidt, who is heading the EU delegation as Denmark holds the bloc\'s rotating presidency, said: \"We stick to the proposal we have made.\"
The EU wants the world to have 15 percent of its energy from renewables by 2010, up from about 14 percent in 2000, and for developed countries to increase their reliance on clean power by two percentage points. Brazil has proposed a tougher target that would exclude large hydro power and traditional biomass like firewood, giving greater emphasis to more modern technologies. \"We are convinced of the importance of renewable energy and of targets,\" Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Lafer told a news briefing.
The text on Kyoto will be part of a broad action on environment and development that heads of state and government and expected to sign up to when they arrive at the summit next week.
Ministers are rushing to finalise the action plan on achieving \"sustainable development\" - creating wealth and reducing poverty without destroying the environment - before their leaders start arriving on Monday.
According to United Nations officials, the key remaining issues include:
- renewable energy
- trade, finance and globalisation
- sanitation for the poor
- sustainable patterns of production and consumption
- natural resources
- biological diversity.
Story by Robin Pomeroy
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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