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Ark, 17 Feb 05
Feted and Hated, Kyoto Global Warming Pact Starts
Story by Alister Doyle
(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner in New York, David Fogarty in Singapore, Ed Stoddard in Johannesburg, Carrie LaFrenz in Sydney, Michelle Nichols in Canberra, Y.P. Rajesh in New Delhi, Lindsay Beck in Beijing, Dolly Aglay in Manila, UN bureau in New York, Jeff Mason in Brussels, Jeremy Lovell and Margaret Orgill in London, Jonathan Thatcher in Moscow, Vera Eckert in Frankfurt, Tarmo Virki in Helsinki and David Ljunggren in Ottawa)
OSLO - A world plan to fight global warming went into force on Wednesday, feted by its backers as a lifeline for the planet amid sniping at the United States for pulling out.
After years of delays, the UN Kyoto Protocol on curbing emissions of heat-trapping gases blamed for disrupting the climate took effect at midnight EDT (0500 GMT) with muted celebrations for a deal Washington dismisses as an economic straitjacket.
Green groups marked Kyoto by protesting outside US embassies, by interrupting oil trading on London's International Petroleum Exchange and by carving fast-melting ice sculptures of kangaroos in Australia.
"Climate change is a global problem. It requires a concerted global response," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in remarks beamed to the ancient Japanese city of Kyoto where the pact was signed in 1997. "I call on the world community to be bold, to adhere to the Kyoto Protocol and to act quickly in taking the next steps," he said. "There is no time to lose."
Supporters of the 141-nation pact say it is a tiny first step to slow global warming by imposing legally binding caps on greenhouse-gas emissions -- mainly from burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars -- in 35 developed nations.
Many climate experts fear temperature rises will disrupt farming, raise sea levels by melting icecaps, cause more extreme weather like hurricanes or droughts, spread diseases and wipe out thousands of animal and plant species by 2100.
The United States, the world's biggest polluter, pulled out in 2001. President George W. Bush said Kyoto was too costly, based on unreliable science and unfairly excluded big developing nations like India, China and Brazil which account for a third of the world's population.
Some backers made veiled criticisms of Washington. "141 countries have not allowed this process to be blocked by the unilateral power play of one country," German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin said, outlining plans for even bigger German cuts beyond 2012.
The White House said it aims to fight climate change through technology, especially with techniques that still need work such as clean-burning coal, advanced nuclear power and hydrogen fuel cells. "The US, in the last three years of the Bush administration, has dedicated more resources to the issue of climate change than any other nation of the world and most other nations of the world combined," James Connaughton, chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, said.
Under Kyoto, developed nations will have to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Those exceeding the 2012 goals will be penalized with bigger cuts than the average targets from 2012.
Australia, the only big developed nation on the sidelines with the United States, said it had no plan to sign up. "Until such time as the major polluters of the world, including the United States and China, are made part of the Kyoto regime it is next to useless and indeed harmful for a country such as Australia to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol," Prime Minister John Howard told parliament.
Some skeptics reckon Kyoto will cost $150 billion a year and have no measurable effect. Despite big costs, the European Union reaffirmed pledges to meet promised cuts by 2012. "Climate change is one of the greatest threats we face today," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said. "If the world acts together in the fight against climate change we have a real chance."
And Britain, which is making climate change a key issue for its presidency of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in 2005, promised to try to persuade Washington to rethink. "The truth of the matter is without America there is no deal. We have got to do our best and use our relationship with America to try and make sure they come into agreement with us. Whether I will be able to achieve it or not, I don't know," British Prime Minister Blair told Channel Five TV. Canada said it would host UN talks in December about what to do after Kyoto runs out in 2012.
Koalas and Greenpeace
In Sydney, ice sculptures of kangaroos and koalas melted during a protest by greens over Australia's refusal to ratify. In London, 35 protesters from the Greenpeace environmental group broke into the International Petroleum Exchange, forcing an interruption of trade. Outside the building, they hung a banner saying "Climate Change Kills -- Stop Pushing Oil."
In China, home to 1.3 billion people and one of the world's fastest-growing economies, a man dressed as a gloomy looking polar bear took to Beijing's streets as part of Greenpeace China's campaign to explain the impact of climate change.
Kyoto backers say rich nations are probably the main cause of a 1 F (0.6 C) rise in world temperatures since the Industrial Revolution and should take the lead by cutting use of fossil fuels and shifting to cleaner energy like wind and solar power.
A new EU market will enable polluters overshooting their targets to buy emission allocations from those falling below. Carbon dioxide now trades at about $9.51 (7.33 euros) per tonne.
Russia, whose ratification last November gave Kyoto enough weight to enter into force, hopes to sell carbon dioxide quotas abroad, after the collapse of Soviet-era industries reduced emissions. In Moscow, Russian electricity giant Unified Energy, which accounts for 2 percent of world greenhouse gases, said it was close to signing 30 Kyoto-linked deals to cut emissions.
Even if fully implemented, Kyoto would brake rising temperatures by just 0.18 F (0.1 C) by 2100, according to UN figures, tiny compared to forecasts by a UN climate panel of an overall rise of 2.5-10.4 F (1.4-5.8 C) this century.
In Fiji, protesters with placards gathered on Wednesday outside the US embassy in Suva. One placard read: "Bush: Do you have a spare room at the White House -- mine got taken away by the sea!!"
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