World Environment News

Greenpeace urges public access to climate data

Date: 31-Oct-01
Country: MOROCCO
Author: Gilles Trequesser

A two-week U.N. conference opened on Monday to agree on a legal instrument to govern the so-called Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 treaty drafted in Japan that would oblige all countries, in particular industrial ones, to cut emissions of so-called greenhouse gases believed to be responsible for global warming.

Greenpeace Climate Policy Director Bill Hare said presently defined "rules of public participation are very weak" and do not guarantee an effective functioning of what the United Nations calls Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM).

CDMs, among so-called flexible mechanisms to help countries reach emissions targets without trimming output, promote investment by firms or governments in developing countries and could include reforestation projects to help absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

"Some countries, in particular in the developing world, say that if we open CDM to public scrutiny it would slow the process down, but it's because developing countries don't have this culture" of openness, Hare told Reuters.

The Marrakesh meeting from October 29 to November 9 is known as the COP7, the seventh conference of the parties to a U.N. treaty signed at the first Earth Summit in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. It has to write the rule book for Kyoto, in the hope enough countries will ratify it in 2002 to bring it into force.

Greenpeace insists that the Kyoto Protocol is only a first step, and far more ambitious agreements will be needed to combat the gradual warming of the Earth.

"It remains the only international legal instrument designed to start the world on the road towards the massive reductions in greenhouse gases emissions that are needed this century to avoid disastrous climate change," it said in documents handed to the 2,000 delegates from about 160 countries in Marrakesh.

TARGETS FOR THE NEXT 50 YEARS

The treaty will go into force if it is ratified by 55 countries responsible for 55 percent of emissions in 1990. They would then be legally bound to cut them by around five percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

So far 40 countries, 39 of them non-industrialised ones like Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Georgia, Uruguay and Vanuatu, have ratified the treaty.

The United States, the world's biggest polluter, repudiated it last March, saying it would harm its economy.

Critics say the Kyoto Protocol is a waste of money and will have little impact on climate change.

But Hare disagreed, saying the five percent target was provisional.

"Each five years, there will be deeper cuts," he said. The aim was to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas resulting from human activity, to 80 percent in 50 years.

Although it pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, the United States is a signatory to the U.N Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and has sent a delegation to Morocco.

Some delegates expressed the hope that in light of the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities and the dramatic ensuing changes internationally, Washington could repay some of the solidarity offered in its struggle against terrorism by displaying more flexibility on the climate front.

But Hare of Greenpeace was not so optimistic.

"Before September 11, we hoped the U.S. could rejoin Kyoto perhaps in 2005, at the end of George W. Bush's term. Now, who knows if he won't serve a second mandate?", he said.

Reuters
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