Italy: G-8 Ministers Renew Commitment To Kyoto Protocol

Environment ministers from the world's seven most industrialized countries plus Russia yesterday renewed their commitment to combat global warming and promised to reach consensus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Group of Eight country representatives met for three days starting Friday in Trieste, Italy.

"Trieste was not the place to reopen the negotiating table, but we sent out a strong political message and we found common ground for dialogue," Italian Environment Minister Willer Bordon, who hosted the G-8 meeting, said.

Representatives attending the meeting came from the United States, Italy,
Canada, Germany, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and Russia, as well as the
European Commission.

Talks on implementing Kyoto Protocol targets collapsed at the UN climate
change summit at The Hague in November. The main dispute between the United
States and the European Union focused on whether countries should be allowed
to count carbon dioxide absorbed by forests and farmland toward emission
reduction targets, a measure favored by the United States.

"We commit ourselves... to strive to reach an agreement on outstanding political issues and to ensure in a cost-effective manner the environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol," the G-8 countries' final document said yesterday (Alessandra Rizzo, Associated Press/Boston Globe, 4 Mar).

The ministers unanimously expressed "concern about the seriousness" of the
global warming phenomenon and said they would use this summer's planned
continuation of climate change negotiations to forge an agreement (BBC Online, 4 Mar).

Formal negotiations on climate change are to resume in Bonn in July.

Greenpeace spokesperson Steve Sawyer said the results of the meeting were
"the best that could be done at this stage," adding, "From here, it seems that the rest of the G-8 has given the clear signal that while they're willing to wait for the [U.S. President George W.] Bush administration to speed up the issue, they are not willing to wait very long" (Rizzo, AP/Boston Globe).

BBC Online reports that Sunday's agreement failed to commit all G-8 nations to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol before a 2002 summit on environmental issues. US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman, chief US delegate at Trieste, said the Bush administration needs time to assess its policy on global warming, although it does not intend to turn its back on the treaty, which Bush opposed while campaigning for the US presidency (BBC Online).

While Whitman maintained that nothing has changed in terms of US support for treaty goals, some environmental groups criticized the US stance.

"The United States has to take a position over the Kyoto Protocol," said
Jennifer Morgan, director of the World Wildlife Fund's climate change campaign.

"They have to make up their mind very soon because countries can't negotiate with someone who doesn't have a position" (Alessandro Rizzo, AP/, 3 Mar).

The Bush administration has pledged that the United States will attend the July climate change talks in Bonn (Reuters/, 3 Mar).

The Trieste meeting marked the first time senior environmental policymakers have gathered since the November talks. Before the conference, Italy's Bordon said, "We won't be taking any definitive decisions on climate change because not all the relevant countries will be present. But with the G-8 ministers, the EU's environment representative and hopefully, the chair of the Hague summit present, we should be able to make some progress" (Reuters/PlanetArk, 2 Mar).

Several thousand demonstrators held protests outside the conference during the ministers' meeting over the weekend. On Saturday, the demonstrations were loud but seemed to remain peaceful except for some smoke bombs hurled at security forces. More than 3,000 police and special bomb and marine units were stationed in the area to prepare for possible violence (Reuters/

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