World Environment News

Interview - U.N. climate Chief sees end to EU - US row

Date: 15-Jun-99
Country: Germany
Author: Mark John

Chief U.N. climate official Michael Zammit Cutajar said he expected a
broad deal to emerge by the time of a conference, scheduled for the end
of next year, on implementing emission cuts agreed at the Kyoto summit
in Japan 18 months ago.

"There will be agreements at COP-6 that will require further work,"
Cutajar said in an interview during talks in Bonn, referring to a
U.N.-hosted meeting due to take place in the Dutch city of The Hague
around the end of 2000.

"But I am expecting that COP-6 should deal with the big issues
separating the parties," he added.

At Kyoto, 11 days of talks and a chaotic finale that came close to
collapse produced the world's first treaty on cutting greenhouse gases,
present in everything from car exhaust fumes to the flatulence of

A deadline has been set for nations to decide by the end of next year
how they will achieve the Kyoto target of cutting world greenhouse gas
emissions by an average of around five percent from 1990 levels by the
period 2008-12.

In Kyoto, there was wide acceptance that the heating-up of the earth's
surface from gases trapped in the atmosphere was causing more frequent
storms, melting polar ice and raising sea levels that threaten to engulf
low-lying islands.

The United States, the world's biggest polluter, wants to make full use
of part of the Kyoto protocol offering leeway on national targets in
return for helping poorer countries to cut their emissions.

Europe meanwhile insists that limits be placed on "emissions trading"
and that countries should not seek to shirk their responsibility to cut
pollution at home.

Cutajar said neither bloc had retreated from its position during the
largely technical talks in Bonn but said there was a growing "sense of
movement" entering discussions.

With only nine countries having formally ratified the Kyoto protocol -
mainly potential victims of global warming rather than those responsible
for it - the agreed emission cuts still have no legally binding status.

Cutajar said the major polluters were holding off ratifying the document
until it was clear exactly what it would require of them.

"COP-6 would be the trigger for a wave of ratifications," he said,
adding that without a deal in The Hague there was, conversely, little
chance of the United States ratifying the protocol.

© Thomson Reuters 1999 All rights reserved

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