The Heat Is Online

EU, Japan Ratify Kyoto Protocol

Hopes for Kyoto rise after Japan and EU ratify treaty
Tokyo's foreign minister rings Prescott to tell him surprise news

The Guardian (U.K.)
, June 1, 2002

The European Union and Japan ratified the Kyoto protocol yesterday, binding themselves to cut greenhouse gas emissions despite America's refusal to have anything to do with the treaty.

The decision, announced on the first day of a meeting in Bali to make final preparations for the Earth summit in Johannesburg in August, is designed to give the talks much-needed impetus.

John Prescott, the deputy prime minister and one of the architects of the Kyoto deal in 1997, was delighted. The Japanese foreign minister, Yoriko Kawaguchi, rang him yesterday to wish him a happy birthday and tell him of her government's surprise decision to ratify. Mr Prescott said: "Mrs Kawaguchi rang me at 8.30am to say she had a birthday present for me. It was a nice way to start the day. She knows how much importance I attach to this, having been so closely involved for so long."

It is exactly 10 years since the convention on climate change was first negotiated at the inaugural Earth summit in Rio. The first legally binding cuts were negotiated in 1997 in Kyoto, but agreeing the details proved difficult and the United States, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, pulled out when George Bush was elected.

The rest of the industrialised world decided to go ahead with the treaty in Bonn last year and the EU promised to ratify it before the Johannesburg summit. Some of America's allies, particularly Canada and Australia, have been reluctant to proceed. Japan, however, is emotionally attached to the treaty because it was negotiated in one of its cities, and had been keen to push ahead as long as the US was on board.

For the Kyoto protocol to enter into force, 55 parties to the convention must ratify it, including industrialised countries accounting for 55% of their total combined carbon dioxide emissions in 1990.

As of yesterday the first condition was met but the second was proving more difficult because the US, which alone accounts for 36.1% of the emissions, refuses to take part.

Almost all other large industrial countries, including Russia and the eastern European states, need to join.

The ratifications have given fresh impetus to the ratification process, increasing the percentage of industrialised country emissions now covered under the protocol from 2.7% to around 35.2%.

Mr Prescott said Russia, with 17.4%, had already begun the process, and President Vladimir Putin had promised to complete. More signatories were still required to reach 55%.

In ratifying the Kyoto protocol, the EU legally commits itself to reduce greenhouse gases by 8% from 1990 levels in the period 2008 to 2012, and Japan by 6%.

Some countries in the EU, such as Spain and Ireland, with developing economies are allowed to increase emissions and others have offered larger reductions. The UK's share is a 12.5% reduction, made easier by the switch from coal to gas, which produces less carbon dioxide for the same amount of heat.

Eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic and Romania, each with 1.2% of emissions, are likely to be keen to take part in the Kyoto process. When international carbon trading starts they will both have exceeded emission reduction targets and be able to sell surplus carbon dioxide to countries that cannot reach their targets.

Canada, with 3.3% of emissions, and Australia, with 2.1%, are likely to face increasing diplomatic pressure to comply with the Bonn agreement, and to show that even without the US the world is willing to tackle climate change.

Japan ratifies Kyoto pact, urges others to follow, June 5, 2002

TOKYO - Japan yesterday ratified the Kyoto protocol on global warming that it signed at a United Nations climate conference in 1997 and said it would urge other countries including Russia and the United States to do the same.

With Russia seen likely to comply by the end of the year, the protocol is now just one step away from coming into effect.

Under the protocol, named after the Japanese city where it was signed, industrialised nations must cut emissions of greenhouse gases by an average of five percent over the period 2008-2012. Japan has pledged to cut its output by six percent.

Gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are blamed for rising temperatures and changing weather patterns across the globe.

Fifty-five nations producing 55 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions must ratify the pact before it becomes binding.

But environmentalists said Japan might have difficulty meeting its target, saying the government has done little to promote renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.

"Japan is going to be very behind in its efforts to achieve its target without new measures," said Yurika Ayukawa of World Wide Fund for Nature Japan.

Following the ratification at a cabinet meeting yesterday, Japan's foreign and environment ministers will write to countries including Russia and the United States urging them also to ratify the treaty, an environment ministry official said.

But hopes that the treaty can be brought into force during the Johannesburg meeting on sustainable development starting on August 26 now seem unrealistic, the official said.


Thirty-nine nations that have signed the treaty have yet to ratify it while the United States, the biggest producer of greenhouse gases, has rejected it altogether.

The pact would have required the United States to cut emissions by seven percent from 1990 levels, a condition the Bush administration argued would harm the U.S. economy.

The European Union, which ratified the treaty as a bloc on Friday, took the opportunity to criticise the U.S. stance.

In a government report issued on Friday, however, the administration acknowledged for the first time that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would increase significantly over the next two decades, due mainly to human activities.

It forecast that its total greenhouse gas emissions would increase 43 percent between 2000 and 2020.


EU ratifies global warming pact, May 31, 2002

All 15 European Union states have ratified the Kyoto pact on global warming, paving the way for a new international attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The ceremony took place at the United Nations headquarters in New York, where representatives from all 15 nations and the European Commission handed the required papers to the UN chief legal counsel.

The ratifications mean that the number of parties to the protocol is now well past the threshold of 55 needed to grant it legal status.

Now the agreement needs to be ratified by more than 55 nations who are responsible for more than 55% of greenhouse gas emissions for the law to come into force.

European commissioner for the environment Margot Wallstrom praised the ratification as "an historic moment for global efforts to combat climate change".

However, she warned that the pressure was now on the United States - the world's biggest polluter - to do its part.

'US should reconsider'

Conceived during the historic 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the Kyoto agreement was signed in Japan in 1997.

It requires industrialised countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 8% of the 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

Austria, Britain, Denmark, Germany and Luxembourg are the five countries in the EU who must make the biggest cuts.

But the US refused to sign the treaty, arguing that its economic interests would be threatened.

Instead of cutting emissions from 7% as required by the treaty, the Bush administration has initiated policy changes that could increase its emissions by up to 30%, the European Commission said.

"The European Union urges the United States to reconsider its position," she said.

"All countries have to act, but the industrialised world has to take the lead."

World Summit

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan also welcomed the move, saying it was "good news for the entire world", French news agency AFP reported.

"[It is] a sound and innovative response to a truly global threat affecting rich and poor countries alike."

Since the US pullout from the treaty, the EU led a diplomatic offensive to ensure countries such as Russia, Japan and Canada stick with Kyoto.

Now, with success in New York, green campaigners would like to see Kyoto ratified by the World Summit on Sustainable Development later this year.

EU Nations Ratify Global Warming Pact

Reuters News Service, May 31, 2002

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - All 15 European Union nations on Friday ratified the Kyoto pact intended to combat global warming and the EU used the occasion to goad Washington -- which has turned its back on the treaty -- to do its part.

The Kyoto protocol, which grew out of the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, is aimed at cutting the emission of greenhouse gases blamed for rising global temperatures.

The protocol, signed in Kyoto in 1997, requires industrialized countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5 percent over the period 2008-2012. Both the European Union and the United States -- the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases -- are parties to the framework convention, but President Bush shunned the treaty, saying it would hurt the U.S. economy.

At a ceremony at U.N. headquarters in New York, Margot Wallstrom, European commissioner for the environment, called the signing "an historic moment for global efforts to combat climate change" while underlining the need for all industrialized as well as developing nations to pitch in.

"All countries have to act, but the industrialized countries have to take the lead," she said.