G8 in Open Disarray Over Kyoto Protocol

The divisions between the world’s
leading nations over the Kyoto protocol on global warming deepened
dramatically on Sunday, when an informal discussion on climate
change ended in disarray with both the United States and Canada
looking increasingly isolated.

BANFF, Alberta –
The divisions between the world’s
leading nations over the Kyoto protocol on global warming deepened
dramatically on Sunday, when an informal discussion on climate
change ended in disarray with both the United States and Canada
looking increasingly isolated.

Washington has been relentlessly attacked since abandoning
Kyoto last year but after environment ministers from the Group of
Eight leading nations ended their 45-minute meeting it
was clear European leaders were fast losing patience with Canada’s
dithering over whether to ratify the accord.


Anti-G8 protesters dressed as endangered spotted owls march in downtown Banff, Alberta, Canada, Sunday, April 14, 2002. The G8 Environment Ministers are wrapping up their two day meeting in Banff and about 100 protesters tried to get their attention Sunday. Forty of them were dressed as owls. (AP Photo/CP, Jeff McIntosh)

Ottawa, which is under heavy pressure from energy producers and
several powerful provinces to follow the U.S. lead and ditch Kyoto,
has abandoned all talk of ratification this year and is calling for
more nationwide consultations.

Crucially, it also wants to be given more credit for exporting
clean energy to the United States as a way of meeting its Kyoto
target for cutting emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for
global warming.

But both the European Union and individual European nations —
who have been politely predicting Canada would ratify Kyoto soon —
said the idea of clean energy credits would wreck the protocol and
harshly made their displeasure known.

“My initial reaction is that if Canada now comes back to say we
have to reopen all the negotiations because we have seen the costs
are high — that is not unique for Canada,” said Margot Wallstrom,
the environment commissioner for the 15-nation European Union.

“We think this proposal…would actually completely change the
whole structure and architecture of the Kyoto protocol and this is
simply not acceptable to us,” she told the closing news conference
after two days of talks as Canadian Environment Minister David
Anderson fumed in silence.

The European Union is especially unhappy about the Canadian
idea, given that Kyoto has already been changed once to give Canada
credit for the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by its large
forests.

But Anderson made clear that Ottawa would press ahead with
plans to formally present the clean energy proposal at a meeting in
Canada next month, saying he was not convinced by what the critics
had to say.

And he lost his temper when pressed repeatedly on Kyoto,
pointing out that the G8 ministers’ meeting in the Rocky Mountain
resort town of Banff had formally been working on the agenda for a
major conference on sustainable development in Johannesburg this
August.

“A child dies every 10 seconds, every 10 seconds. Think how
many children have died since we began this press conference and
then say to me ‘Keep talking about only one subject, only one
subject, only one subject and ignore everything else, including
those children who are dying’,” he snapped.

The meeting was clearly something of a disaster for Anderson,
who lost another battle when G8 delegates overrode Canadian
objections and insisted there should be specific mention of Kyoto
ratification in the final protocol.

“They basically tried to duck the issue, they tried to keep it
off the agenda. Well, they failed,” said Benedict Southworth, the
climate change director of Greenpeace.

“Fortunately the more progressive elements of the G8 have said
‘No, you are going to talk about Kyoto. We are going to keep on
track’.”

Some delegates said they suspected that Canada might even be
tempted to abandon Kyoto altogether over clean energy export
credits, a concept which attracted a steady drumbeat of disapproval
during the day.

“It is obvious that this is not an idea that has been thought
through to its real final consequences,” German Environment
Minister Juergen Trittin told reporters.

Despite Canada’s noted recent softening of its pro-Kyoto
stance, Anderson angrily insisted that “There has be no, no, no
change of position of the federal government of Canada” and
proceeded to accuse journalists of misquoting him.

Although the G8 ministers put less pressure than usual on
Christine Todd Whitman, the much-criticized head of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, they made clear that President
George W. Bush’s proposal to introduce voluntary guidelines for
emissions reductions were inadequate.

“We don’t think what the United States is doing is enough. It
will be very little more than business as usual and allow emissions
to rise more than 30 percent,” said Wallstrom.

“The basic problem is of course that the United States has
chosen to stand outside the Kyoto protocol. I hope we will be able
one day to convince them to come back into this process.”

The G8 comprises Canada, Britain, the United States, Japan,
Italy, Germany, France and Russia.

Author: David Ljunggren

News Service: Reuters Limited

URL: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/0414-07.htm