Wallström rounds on US as hopes fade for Kyoto

Author (Person)
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Series Details Vol.7, No.28, 12.7.01, p1
Publication Date 12/07/2001
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Date: 16/07/01

By Laurence Frost

THE US is working to prevent further progress on finalising the Kyoto protocol at next week's global climate talks in Bonn, EU environment chief Margot Wallström has warned.

Her comments came as the UN's International Panel on Climate Change released a report stating that global temperatures will rise by as much as 5.8 degrees by the end of this century - almost twice the figure they forecast five years ago.

The Commissioner is urging industrialised countries not to withdraw their wavering support for the Kyoto pact, despite its rejection by President Bush. "I wish I knew what that man thinks," Wallström told European Voice. "I can't guess what [the Americans'] intentions are - but of course it would be more difficult for them if the rest of the world agrees in Bonn."

Bush pledged at the Göteborg summit not to obstruct progress at the Bonn COP-6 talks, which begin on Monday (16 July).

But Wallström says the US is already using its influence over countries such as Japan to scupper the deal. "They have an interest in delaying it and trying to convince the others," she said.

The US insists it is committed to addressing the climate change issue and is sending a delegation to Bonn, where more than 150 nations will be represented.

Kyoto will only come into effect once ratified by 55 countries accounting for at least 557 of global greenhouse emissions. The US, with 47 of world population, produces 257 of emissions. Without America, the participation of Japan - the world's second largest economy - is vital to the protocol's success.

But Japan has so far resisted EU pleas for a commitment to the protocol, with or without the US. Premier Junichiro Koizumi told Wallström in Tokyo earlier this week that without Washington, his government would be unlikely to back a deal in Bonn.

Faced with dwindling optimism on Kyoto, the EU is under pressure to give ground on some of the technical issues left outstanding when the last round of COP-6 talks collapsed in The Hague last November.

Wallström admitted this week for the first time that the Union could be forced to accept a partial deal, hinting at further compromises on the 'flexible mechanisms' which would allow rich states to sponsor emissions-reducing schemes in developing nations as a substitute for cuts at home. "We could have a partial agreement in Bonn," she said. "We could choose to concentrate on flexible mechanisms, for example, to please the Americans."

After five days of the talks between officials, environment ministers will arrive at the Maritim Hotel on Saturday (21 July) to join the fray. "It's difficult to see what the technical talks can achieve while all the sparks are flying," said Rob Bradley of environmental NGO Climate Network Europe. "The US doesn't want a deal."

Former US Kyoto negotiator Stuart Eizenstat shares the scepticism of green groups. "Kyoto is at best on life-support," the top Clinton official told European Voice. "Will the EU be prepared to impose costs on its own industry without Japan and the US doing the same?"

The Commission's failure to adopt proposals for emissions trading - a key plank of its climate strategy - could also undermine the credibility of its stance. Wallström had hoped for the plans to be adopted ahead of the talks as a sign of the executive's commitment to Kyoto. Instead they have been postponed until September at the earliest.

Environment officials hint that industry chief Erkki Liikanen intervened to force a delay, backed by the UK, which fears that the proposals would be incompatible with its own emissions trading scheme.

Police in Bonn are preparing a massive security operation, with 2,000 extra officers on duty to prevent trouble at the talks. "Bonn isn't going to be another Göteborg or another Salzburg," said police spokesman Markus Teller. "If there are acts of violence we will react appropriately."

The UN is handling security at the conference. Photographs have been introduced to identity badges to prevent a repetition of farcical scenes at The Hague, when protesters used photocopied passes to enter official meeting rooms and chained themselves to the furniture.

The US State Department declined to comment on suggestions that American delegates had been forced to change hotel reservations after German police raised security concerns.

The US is working to prevent further progress on finalising the Kyoto protocol at the global climate talks starting in Bonn on 16.7.01, EU environment chief Margot Wallström has warned.

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