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Media: Financial Times London 7/24/01

Climate deal leaves US isolated: Historic treaty to tackle global warming agreed by 178 countries

Financial Times (London)

July 24, 2001, Tuesday USA Edition 2

BONN: A historic accord to cut emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming was agreed yesterday by 178 countries - the first international treaty that will restrain energy consumption. But the US stood isolated, refusing to commit itself to what President George W. Bush called a "fatally flawed" agreement that threatened its national interests.

Yesterday morning, after four days of negotiations, Japan, the European Union and some developing countries concluded a compromise that ensures the survival of the beleaguered Kyoto protocol on climate change, originally negotiated in 1997. It will lead to a compliance system with specific targets for cutting emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. These come from burning fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas. The EU hailed the Bonn agreement - achieved in spite of low expectations of success - as "a historic decision that would enable governments to ratify the Kyoto protocol and bring it into force". It hoped the deal would encourage the Bush administration to reconsider its decision not to ratify the treaty.

"We have rescued the Kyoto protocol," said Margot Wallstrom, Sweden's environment minister. "We can go home, look our children in the eye and feel proud of what we have done."

Michael Meacher, the UK environment minister, said it was "a fantastic day for the environment. This is a historic day that all of us will remember," he said.

Paula Dobriansky, US undersecretary of state for global affairs, underlined the US decision against ratification, saying yesterday's agreement reinforced the conclusions "that the treaty is not workable for the US". But she added that "the US had not sought to prevent others from moving ahead". The deal sets rules for the use of "flexible mechanisms", such as emissions trading, and includes a funding package to help developing countries adapt to climate change. The proposals also include a limited amount of carbon "sinks" - forests and agricultural land that absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

Japan, whose backing is crucial for bringing the treaty into force, yesterday indicated its support. Junichiro Koizumi, Japan's prime minister, said: "Japan intends to continue to do its best to achieve a final agreement by COP7 (the next climate change meeting in October) with a view to the entry into force of the protocol by 2002." He added that Japan would continue its "maximum efforts" to bring the US into the agreement. Environmental campaigners welcomed the agreement. "If everything goes to plan, this will be a major political victory," said Friends of the Earth. Campaigners said the agreement would put greenhouse gas emissions from industrialised countries on a downwards trend, even though it weakened the deal originally agreed in Kyoto.

"This deal sends an unambiguous signal to business and industry to begin investing in measures that cut carbon pollution," said Jennifer Morgan of WWF, the conservation group.

The International Chamber of Commerce reacted cautiously, recognising that "considerable progress had been made" while calling for additional details to be agreed to allow businesses to start planning investment.

Special report: The Bonn climate conference

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