Kyoto States to Discuss Post-2012 Cuts
BONN, Germany Countries that are signed up to the Kyoto Protocol reaffirmed plans on Friday to set new, tougher caps on greenhouse gas emissions after 2012, despite spreading scepticism about the environmental pact.
The conference of some 160 countries in Bonn set no timetable for agreeing on the goals, which would only apply to rich nations, but the talks would take at least two years.
The world's biggest polluter, the United States, was absent, having pulled out of Kyoto in 2001.
"The group has agreed an ambitious agenda to deliver new emission reductions," said Richard Kinley, acting head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, wrapping up the May 15-26 talks.
It was the first meeting of a group set up by Kyoto countries last December to work out a roadmap for emissions cuts beyond 2012. Kyoto obliges 35 rich nations to cut emissions by at least 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
Burning fossil fuels powers the world's energy needs but also pumps out gases such as carbon dioxide that are largely blamed for global warming of nearly 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in the past century.
Scientists say catastrophic climate change could follow without emission cuts, but many countries fear the economic impacts of these, and that any burden may not be fairly shared.
Canada recently said its present targets were unachievable, while the commitment of Japan, another Kyoto ratifier, could not be taken for granted, said Michael Zammit Cutajar, head of the group driving post-2012 talks.
"It's very important Canada stays on board. If Canada goes that starts to weaken the edifice," he said.
"The most important thing at the moment is to hold Japan in. They're extremely concerned about not going (too) far ahead in this game."
The United States and Australia are the main industrial nations outside Kyoto. President George W. Bush says Kyoto would cost U.S. jobs and wrongly excludes developing nations.
The Kyoto Protocol limits the greenhouse gas emissions of rich nations, but allows them to buy emission cuts from other countries, so establishing a carbon market.
Uncertainty about the future carbon price, given Kyoto's limited duration, has had industry fretting over future energy costs and power generators unsure what type of plants to build.
Friday's new impetus should reassure industry, Cutajar said.
"(The agreement) is the beginning of a signal to carbon markets that they have a life ahead of them beyond 2012."
"After two weeks of negotiations, the brakes are off and the process is moving forward," said Jennifer Morgan, climate change director for the WWF environmental group.
"We haven't saved the planet here in Bonn," said Bill Hare of Greenpeace. "But we have taken a step forward." Both Greenpeace and the WWF said far deeper cuts were needed.
The text of Friday's agreement stated that post-2012 goals must have an economic and scientific underpinning.
Cutajar said that would come from Britain's Stern Review on the economics of climate change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2007 review of the science of global warming.
(Additional reporting by Alister Doyle)