Italy Swings Its Support Back to Kyoto and Beyond
ROME Italy has swung back to being a firm supporter of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, with a new Green environment minister saying big polluters like the United States, China and India must also be forced to take action.
Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, appointed after the centre left narrowly beat conservative premier Silvio Berlusconi at an April election, said he had reversed his predecessor's policy of pulling out of Kyoto after 2012.
"Now we have a normal policy, before it was an anomaly," Pecoraro Scanio, a member of Italy's Green party, told Reuters in an interview in Rome a few days before travelling to his first U.N. climate change conference, under way in Nairobi.
Under Berlusconi, Italy's position was that Kyoto -- which forces 35 industrialised nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases in 2008-2012 -- should be discontinued after then because the world's biggest polluter, the United States, has refused to take part.
Pecoraro Scanio said it was essential after 2012 to continue Kyoto and set binding targets for reducing emissions that contribute to the greenhouse effect.
"Maybe it won't be called Kyoto. It's not that we're so fond of the name, what interests us is the substance," he said.
"If the United States doesn't want to be part of something called Kyoto, let's create another pact, let's call it Nairobi, just as long as they join."
"We must do a new protocol - let's do it immediately," he said, adding that he did not expect such an agreement to happen at Nairobi but that talks there must lay the groundwork for a post-Kyoto pact that includes the countries now absent.
President George W. Bush pulled out of a pact signed by the previous Democratic administration saying it would hurt U.S. companies and that it unfairly did not impose reductions on rapidly growing developing countries.
Pecoraro Scanio said Europe should no longer accept that position and suggested the threat of trade sanctions against both the United States, and major exporters like China and India, should they refuse to accept emissions cuts.
"We have asked the European Union to do something at the World Trade Organisation on environmental dumping for those countries which do not cut CO2," he said.
The aim would be to impose import duties on goods from countries which are not cutting emissions, said the minister.
Admitting that this was something of a political provocation as this point, rather than a concrete proposal, he added: "It's not that I think the solution is a trade war, but we have to make it understood that those that don't cut CO2 and damage the environment are a problem."
India and China can no longer refuse cuts on the basis that rich countries must act first, Pecoraro Scanio said.
"Now they are becoming rich. So they should absolutely have to start making a contribution."
But the EU had to lead by example and live up to its own promises, he said. Italy produces 12 percent more greenhouse gas than in 1990, compared with a target reduction of 6.5 during 2008-12.
Pecoraro Scanio said Italy could still achieve the target, although it would be difficult.