Time to let the US know global warming counts, too

Author (Person)
Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.40, 1.11.01, p6
Publication Date 31/10/2001
Content Type

Date: 31/10/01

By Gareth Harding

AT DUSK every day, street vendors set up their stalls on Marrakech's Djemaa el-Fna square to hawk sheep brains, goat's testicles and other delicacies. "Jugglers, storytellers, snake charmers, magicians, acrobats and benign lunatics take over the rest of the square," says my guidebook, "each surrounded by jostling spectators who listen and watch intently, or fall about laughing and move on to another act starting-up nearby."

This week there's a new travelling circus in town that could teach Marrakech's street entertainers a thing or two about how to juggle figures, twist stances and work magic with dodgy statistics. It's called the 'Climate Change Show' and it's been playing to ever-dwindling audiences around the world for nearly a decade now.

It has its fair share of benign lunatics and modern-day flat-earthers, such as George W Bush for example; it has to compete with other pageants for the audience's attention - the latest crowd-puller is a piece of pyrotechnical wizardry called the 'Strike Against Terror' - and it is difficult to remain unmoved by the story of how a beautiful planet began to choke under a cloud of noxious gases. But bizarre though the spectacle is, everyone except the US knows that it's the only show in town.

The Marrakech meeting aims to tie up the loose ends of the Kyoto protocol on climate change, which commits rich countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases over the next decade. Much of the spadework for the marathon UN talkfest was done in Bonn earlier this year.

There, the EU salvaged the 1997 agreement from the dustbin to which Bush tried to consign it. The challenge now is to turn the political agreement reached in the Rhineland into a legally binding text - a problem with which European negotiators are all too familiar. If delegates succeed in drafting a watertight text imposing penalties on countries that fail to meet their targets, it will be a victory for the EU negotiating team.

However, if no sanctions are inked into the document next week, it will not be worth the paper it is printed on. At Bonn, the EU bent over backwards to accommodate the concerns of waverers such as Russia, Japan and Australia. The price it paid was a draft text that weakened the Kyoto protocol and made it easier for states to wriggle out of their commitments. Having proved that it is flexible enough to strike a deal, the EU must now show that it is tough enough to make sure it is implemented - and that means telling the Russians that millions of hectares of forest 'sinks' are not enough to curb climate change. And it means telling the United States, which is responsible for over a quarter of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, that the fight against global warming is as important as the fight against global terrorism.

The EU has every right to claim the moral high ground in the climate change debate. It is one of the few blocs to have put the brakes on rising CO2 emissions, it has signed up to the world's most ambitious targets for slashing greenhouse gases, and it has steered the Kyoto protocol through some very choppy waters since it was agreed. But the Union cannot afford to be complacent.

The latest report from the European Environment Agency shows that rocketing transport emissions could blow a hole in its goal of cutting emissions by 8 by 2012 and concludes that "meeting the EU Kyoto protocol target is likely to be difficult". Last week the European Commission dusted off a series of ten measures to help meet this aim, but most of these are old proposals with new covers.

Environment chief Margot Wallström also called on EU states to ratify the protocol by the end of next year. So far only France, Denmark and the Netherlands have done so and until all 15 sign up, it will be difficult for the bloc to lecture others on the need to become members of the Kyoto club.

If EU negotiators have a few spare moments in Marrakech, they could pop into the city's labyrinthine souk and pick up a few bargaining tips from the carpet salesmen there.

It's also probably the only place where they are likely to bump into US delegates. With little to contribute to the debate inside the conference centre, they might as well spend their time sightseeing and souvenir hunting.

Related Links
http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/01/1465&format=HTML&rapid=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/01/1465&format=HTML&rapid=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

Subject Categories
Countries / Regions
Record URL https://www.europeansources.info/record/?p=257757