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Germany: Bonn Summit Seeks to Salvage Kyoto Accord

by Paul BrownThe Guardian
July 19th, 2001

BONN -- A changing political mood has raised the hope that the climate talks in Bonn will reach an agreement by Sunday that will enable governments to ratify the Kyoto protocol next year without the United States joining them.

"All of a sudden there is a spirit that was not about before, even though there are still big differences," the Dutch environment minister, Jan Pronk, who is chairing the talks, said.

"In all my meetings, not a single government has said it is not prepared to reach agreement by the end of the talks, and not one that says it does not want to ratify by 2002."

The ministers beginning to arrive for the crucial political talks would have an uncomfortable time returning home if they failed again, he said.

"At a certain moment there is a loss in credibility of politicians and political systems if you keep going home and saying you could not reach agreement."

Michael Zammit Cutajar, executive secretary of the climate convention, said the US rejection of Kyoto in March had had an unexpected result. "Although it was unwelcome, it has pushed the issue right up the political agenda," he said. "There is a different dynamic as a result; it has changed the state of play."

Mr Pronk said there could no longer be the excuse that there had not been enough time for the talks, as there might have been at the Hague.

"If there is a political will, it is possible to get a package of rules, but let me not raise expectations too high. There are still difficulties."

Despite the difficulties, he was confident that the 55/55 formula -- 55 countries with 55% of the global emissions must ratify the protocol to give it legal force -- could be reached.

The EU, Russia, eastern European countries and Japan, all of whose ratification is essential, have all said they are willing to do so.

Asked if Kyoto would be dead if agreement was not reached, he said: "It would be utterly sick."

Although it has renounced the protocol, the US is among the 178 countries present, and is taking a full "and positive part", Mr Pronk said.

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