U.N. to Start Marathon in Bonn to Widen Kyoto
OSLO A U.N. meeting in Germany next week will start a marathon bid to extend the U.N.'s Kyoto protocol on fighting global warming and persuade the United States and developing nations to take part from 2012.
Government experts from almost 200 nations will attend a seminar in Bonn on May 16-17, the first formal U.N. climate meeting since the 150-nation Kyoto protocol entered into force on Feb. 16 after years of delays and hit by a U.S. pullout.
The talks may give early clues to the level of enthusiasm about renewing Kyoto when it runs out in 2012. Kyoto is the main weapon in a fight against rising temperatures widely blamed on emissions of heat-trapping gases from cars, power plants and factories.
"This is progress that requires a microscope to track," said Steve Sawyer, climate policy expert at the environmental group Greenpeace, which advocates far faster and tougher measures to rein in the creeping rise in world temperatures.
He said Greenpeace feared that the seminar was "a prelude to talks about talks about talks."
Many scientists say the rising concentration of gases like carbon dioxide may badly disrupt the climate by 2100 and could trigger more storms, spread deserts, drive thousands of species of animals and plants to extinction and raise sea levels.
"Countries like India and China have to be part of the global agreement (after 2012), to what extent and in which manner is likely to take years to decide," said Bert Bolin, a Swede who chaired the U.N. climate panel for nine years until 1997 when Kyoto was signed.
Developing nations like China, India, Brazil and Indonesia are excluded from the first round of Kyoto cuts, binding rich nations to reduce overall emissions of 'greenhouse gases' by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
Bolin said the world was "fooling itself" by reckoning that it could delay costly action to curb global warming.
"We are not in the vicinity of achieving what was agreed in Kyoto," he said. Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, New Zealand and Canada are among Kyoto backers that are further above their emissions quotas than non-participant the United States.
President George W. Bush pulled out of Kyoto in 2001, saying it would be too costly and wrongly excluded developing nations from the first period to 2012. Washington is focusing instead on research into cleaner energy technologies like hydrogen.
Bush says that scientists' predictions of a 1.4-5.8C (2.5-10.5F) rise in temperatures by 2100 are not reliable enough to force a shift in U.S. energy and environmental policies that could cost trillions of dollars.
By contrast the European Union, a big backer of Kyoto, has launched trading of carbon dioxide quotas as part of a bid to squeeze industrial emissions. The EU also aims to cut emissions by 15-30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Some researchers say that the Kyoto model with its focus on national cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases will not work beyond 2012, especially without the United States, the world's biggest polluter.
Until now "the focus has been on national emissions quotas. We are afraid this has been a dead end," Knut Alfsen and Bjart Holtsmark of the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo, wrote in a report.
They said the world should focus more on other approaches including new technologies, the capture and storage of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and efforts to make atomic energy more socially acceptable.