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The Fortnight

The logjam continues

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Jul 15, 2001 | From the print edition
George W Bush gets a hostile reaction from the European Union for his stubborn stand on the Kyoto Protocol

A charade of smiles: European< even as the us reiterated its rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, the European Union ( eu ) has decided to ratify it. "The eu will stick to the Kyoto Protocol," announced Goran Persson, eu head and Swedish prime minister, at a one-day eu - us summit held at Gteborg, Sweden, on June 14, 2001.

With both sides reaffirming their old stand, the summit failed to overcome the differences between the us and the eu on the issue of combating global warming. "We have agreed that this is an important issue and that we must cooperate. But we do not agree that the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol is the best way to achieve results. We have to find new channels of cooperation," said us president George W Bush. Both the us and the eu have decided to establish a high-level group to continue dialogue on the subject. The eu commissioner Margot Wallstrm and Swedish environment minister Kjell Larsson will represent the eu in the group.

At the summit, the eu extracted a commitment from the us that it will not block the process of negotiating the protocol at the upcoming climate change discussions to be held soon in Bonn, Germany. But despite this, experts apprehend that the us might prevent any final agreement. By virtue of being a signatory to the protocol, the us can participate in the discussions. "If the us is not prepared to join the global fight against climate change, it should keep away from the forthcoming international talks on climate," stated Kate Hampton, climate change coordinator, Friends of the Earth International, a non-governmental organisation.

To ensure that the protocol comes into force by 2002, the eu is trying to enlist the support of as many industrialised countries as possible. It will send a delegation to key us allies like Japan, Canada and Australia in an attempt to convince them to ratify the protocol.

The protocol can enter into force only when industrialised countries accounting for at least 55 per cent of the total carbon dioxide emissions in 1990, have ratified it. It will not be possible to fulfil this condition unless Japan or Canada ratify the protocol. Along with this, ratification of countries like Russia, Switzerland, Central and East European countries and the eu is also necessary. At present, Japan has not taken a resolute stand on the issue in the eventuality of the us not ratifying the protocol. The eu head will meet Japan premier on June 30, 2001, to discuss the matter. The case of Canada ratifying the protocol without the us is even more unlikely.

In a speech before leaving for the summit and a tour of key European nations, Bush called the protocol as fatally flawed in fundamental ways. He said that Kyoto targets requiring industrialised countries to cut their greenhouse gas ( ghg ) emissions by a specific percentage are arbitrary and not based on science.

He also complained that the protocol did not place similar demands on developing countries, like India and China, whose ghg emissions were rapidly increasing. Developing countries, on the other hand, argue that the restraining of emissions will hinder their economic development. They want industrialised countries to cut their emissions first, instead of asking them to curtail their growth.

Bush's speech came after a panel of 11 top us scientists declared that global warming was a real problem and was getting worse. The Bush administration, undertaking review of its climate change policy, had requested the National Academy of Sciences ( nas ) to give advise on the issue.

nas scientists, in their report, confirmed the current scientific thinking that the Earth's surface temperature was rising and that human activity was largely responsible for it. "National policy decisions made now and in the future, will influence the extent of any damage suffered by vulnerable human populations and ecosystems later in this century," cautioned the scientists.

The eu has been sharply critical of Bush's unilateral decision to abandon the protocol. Concerned about the global impacts of climate change and saving a treaty negotiated over ten years, the eu has since tried in vain to persuade him to reverse the decision. Bush, on the other hand, has maintained that complying with the protocol would affect the us economy. The us is the biggest emitter of ghg s, a fact that Bush himself acknowledges.

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