EU ratifies global warming pact, slams Washington
UNITED NATIONS - All 15 European Union nations ratified the Kyoto protocol against global warming as a bloc last week and used the occasion to slam Washington - which has shunned the treaty - for failing to do its part.
The Kyoto pact, which grew out of the historic 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and was signed in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, is aimed at cutting emissions of polluting greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, which are blamed for rising global temperatures.
It requires industrialized nations to cut their emissions by an average of 5 percent over the period 2008-2012.
But the United States, the world\'s largest polluter, shunned the treaty shortly after President George W. Bush took office last year, arguing it would harm the U.S. economy.
The pact would have required the United States, which accounts for about a third of the industrialized world\'s greenhouse gas emissions, to trim emissions by 7 percent from 1990 levels.
But the Bush administration has instead announced policy changes likely to push them up by 30 percent by 2010, the European Commission said. Over the last five years, U.S. emissions rose more than 8 percent, said Margot Wallstrom, European commissioner for the environment.
At a ceremony at U.N. headquarters in New York, representatives of all 15 EU nations and the European Commission handed papers from their respective nations to U.N. Chief Legal Counsel Hans Corell, signifying their national legislatures had approved the pact.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed the ratifications as \"good news for the entire world\" while Wallstrom called the ceremony \"an historic moment for global efforts to combat climate change.\"
\'ALL COUNTRIES HAVE TO ACT\'
But Washington now had to pitch in, Wallstrom said.
\"The United States is the only nation to have spoken out against and rejected the global framework for addressing climate change. The European Union urges the United States to reconsider its position,\" she said. \"All countries have to act, but the industrialized world has to take the lead.\"
The ceremony came while ministers representing the United Nations\' 189 member-nations worked in Bali to complete preparations for a follow-up meeting to the Earth Summit opening in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August.
A top goal of the coming World Summit on Sustainable Development is to ratchet up the fight against global warming, but environmental groups accuse Washington of trying to water down the action plan to be adopted at the summit\'s close.
Michel Raquet of Greenpeace called the EU move \"very significant\" as it brought the Kyoto pact closer to entering into force while giving the EU \"the political credibility to put the Johannesburg train back on the right track.\"
Just a few months from Johannesburg, \"Europe has confirmed its determination to meet its responsibilities to protect the world environment,\" French President Jacques Chirac said in a statement issued in Paris.
To take effect, the pact must be ratified by at least 55 nations representing 55 percent of developed countries\' carbon dioxide emissions. Seventy nations have now ratified, representing 26.6 percent of wealthy nations\' emissions.
Of the 41 nations that have signed but not yet ratified, Japan has given notice it would ratify shortly and Russia was expected to ratify by the end of the year, which would give the protocol the necessary 55 percent, Wallstrom said.
Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk also pressed Canada to ratify, saying it was key to the effort. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said this month his country would not act until certain aspects of the treaty were clarified.
The European Union as a bloc is on course to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gases by 8 percent from 1990 levels, but the picture is patchy across the bloc.
Total EU emissions were down 3.5 percent in 2000, according to data issued last month by the European Environment Agency.
But many member states are finding it tough to meet their individual targets as set under a \"burden sharing\" agreement.
That agreement allowed Spain to increase its emissions by 15 percent, but its emissions were already up 33.7 percent by 2000. Eight other EU countries were also falling short of the necessary emissions cuts, the agency said.
The biggest EU cuts have been made by Britain and Germany, two of the biggest EU economies, which have reduction targets of 12 percent and 21 percent respectively,
Britain has slashed carbon dioxide emissions by 12.5 percent by using less coal and more natural gas to generate electricity. Germany\'s emissions fell by 19 percent, largely due to the closing of inefficient and dirty industry in the former communist East.
Story by Irwin Arieff
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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