U.N. Voices Concern Over U.S., Australia On Climate
OSLO - U.S. and Australian calls for a new world deal to fight climate change and ditch the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol misrepresent key elements of the U.N. plan, the global body's top climate official said on Thursday.
"I've read some things recently which rather concern me," Yvo de Boer said of U.S. and Australian criticisms of Kyoto. The United States and Australia are the only industrial countries outside Kyoto and favor a broader long-term treaty beyond 2012.
"If you take a good look at the Kyoto Protocol many of the things that the U.S. and Australia are advocating as important elements of a useful way forward are in fact in there," said de Boer, head of the Bonn-based U.N. Climate Change Secretariat.
Kyoto should be improved and expanded rather than abandoned, he told Reuters in a telephone interview, faulting both U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
This week, Downer wrote in the Australian daily The Age: "Climate change demands an effective and enduring global response. The Kyoto Protocol is not it ... Kyoto covers barely a third of global emissions. Kyoto demands nothing of big developing economies in our region."
But de Boer, a Dutch citizen, said Kyoto has been ratified by 175 nations accounting for more than 70 percent of global emissions, including Asian developing nations such as China, India and Indonesia.
"While it's true that only a limited group of countries has legally binding targets, the protocol also obliges developing countries to undertake projects and program to limit their emissions," de Boer said.
"You do see developing countries acting.
He noted Indian President Pratibha Patil has called for 25 percent of power to be generated from renewable energy by 2030 and China plans to cut the energy intensity of its economy by 20 percent in five years.
Kyoto obliges 35 rich nations -- representing about a third of emissions -- to cut the output of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, by at least 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
The U.N. climate panel says global warming is set to cause more floods, droughts, heatwaves, erosion and rising seas.
Similarly, de Boer noted Dobriansky was quoted as telling Japan's Kyodo news agency this week that Washington would seek an anti-global warming pact beyond 2012 different from Kyoto.
"Paula Dobriansky talked about a process intended to focus on 'bottom-up approaches'. That I think relates to the impression that some people have that targets were imposed on countries in the context of the U.N. process," de Boer said.
But he said Kyoto's caps had been set voluntarily by each country -- including the United States -- and that there were many flexible ways of reaching goals, for instance by carbon trading or investing in clean energy in poorer nations.
President George W. Bush decided in 2001 not to implement Kyoto, saying it would cost too much and wrongly excluded 2012 targets for poor nations. Former President Bill Clinton signed Kyoto but never submitted it to a hostile Senate.
Bush has called a meeting of major emitters in Washington on September 27-28 to work out long-term goals by the end of 2008 for cutting emissions and feed into a broader U.N. process. De Boer said he welcomed the U.S. meeting.