5 Mar 2002 – At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, the 15 European Union environment ministers agreed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on global warming although no agreement was reached on individual reduction targets for participating countries.
The move by the EU is intended to spur other nations into ratifying the accord so that it cab be enacted before a UN-sponsored summit on sustainable development August in South Africa.
Although no EU government has yet ratified the accord, all of the ministers declared their countries’ intentions to do so before June 1, Spanish Environment Minister Jaume Matas said. “This achievement is an extremely important one which will guarantee saving the Kyoto protocol,” Matas told reporters.
The EU is pushing ahead with ratification of the agreement despite the Bush administration’s decision to pull the United States out of the accord, saying it would be too harmful to its economy.
European officials slammed President Bush’s own initiative on global warming, calling it a terrible alternative to Kyoto. Bush’s alternative would tighten power plant standards to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury, which contribute to smog, acid rain, and health problems for children. Critics say it lacks teeth because many of the measures are voluntary.
Under the Kyoto accord, the EU has pledged to reduce emissions by 8 per cent of 1990 levels by 2012 through legislation to promote cleaner energy and to shift traffic to less polluting transportation such as rail or water. The majority of the phased-in emissions cuts will have to come from large industrial and energy plants.
However, the 15 EU nations failed to agree among themselves over how to make the cuts, after Denmark said it was being asked to carry too much of the burden. In a statement, the E.U. ministers agreed to set new national emission cuts “at the latest” by Dec. 31, 2006, when the cuts agreed at Kyoto are due to start kicking in.
To take legal force, the accord must be ratified by 55 countries, including industrialized countries who represent at least 55 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. Of those industrialized countries, only Mexico and Romania have so far ratified Kyoto. Michel Raquet of the environmentalist campaign group Greenpeace welcomed the E.U. decision to ratify as “a historic benchmark toward its entry into force.”
Meanwhile, Australia was coming under international pressure at the Commonwealth Summit for agreeing a bilateral pact with the US to monitor climate change – a move seen as a further sign of Australia’s reluctance to ratify the Kyoto protocol.