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Beckett: U.K. Has Not Abandoned Kyoto

"We want something upon which the whole world community can agree, and which will actually bring success in that community cutting emissions," Beckett said. "There are all sorts of ideas about what that might constitute."

London (UPI) Nov 01, 2005
The Kyoto Protocol remains a key element of the British government's approach to tackling climate change, Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said Tuesday.

Speaking in London at the first meeting of the Informal Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development, Beckett denied suggestions Britain had effectively abandoned the treaty in the face of the U.S. position.

Critics have argued the Informal Dialogue -- established at the Group of Eight Summit in July as a forum for discussion on climate change -- is a poor substitute for any meaningful environmental action such as targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Asked by United Press International if targets would be discussed as part of the Dialogue, Beckett said the talks were not intended as a substitute for the U.N. Framework on Climate Change, which remained the only forum in which such negotiations should or would take place.

It was "important not to run before we've started to walk," she added. At present it was simply vital to engage people in discussions about the basis on which cooperation was possible.

Speaking to media on the first day of the two-day summit, Beckett said the meeting would focus on clean energy and energy efficiency. It was hoped working groups would produce "a fairly clear steer as to the future work we should be undertaking," she said.

Beckett denied Britain had essentially abandoned any hope of a further targets-based emissions agreement after the Kyoto Protocol expired in 2012.

"We want something upon which the whole world community can agree, and which will actually bring success in that community cutting emissions," she said. "There are all sorts of ideas about what that might constitute."

She dismissed suggestions that Prime Minister Tony Blair had effectively written off Kyoto in his Observer newspaper article Sunday as "a load of old rubbish."

The article said "very clearly" that Kyoto was important, but that it might not be possible to get everyone to sign up to a successor agreement, she said. "Things have moved on."

Likewise Blair's recent comments in New York -- widely seen as a move towards the U.S. position of technology not targets -- had been "grossly over-interpreted," she continued.

Addressing delegates earlier, she stressed the need for urgent action.

"There is more evidence that the oceans are warming, that a long-term reduction in arctic ice cover is accelerating and that the strength of hurricanes has increased in the last 30 years," she said.

"We face a timetable that is driven by nature, science and by the predicted effect of climate change on our world, not by our own negotiating processes," Beckett added.

The notion of targets and technology as two opposing approaches to climate change was a false dichotomy, she said.

"There has been a serious divide in recent years about whether this (a reduction in greenhouse emissions) is to be achieved through setting targets, or developing technology," she said.

"This is clearly a false divide. Technology is essential to make the transition to a low-carbon economy and targets...have a vital role to play in driving forward that progress."

Writing in the Observer newspaper Sunday, Blair called for a new international consensus on tackling climate change built around "sound, rational science."

While voicing his commitment to the Kyoto Protocol as part of the fight against climate change, he said that without the United States on board, it would never work as intended.

In recent times, he has expressed doubts there will ever be another treaty that sets mandatory, binding targets on greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking in September at a New York debate hosted by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Blair said: "The truth is, no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in the light of a long-term environmental problem."

The United States has withdrawn from the Protocol, while major developing countries such as India and China are also known to be skeptical about any successor agreement based on targets.

Opposition politicians and environmental campaigners questioned Blair's commitment to the issue Tuesday.

"Mr. Blair cannot claim to take the environment seriously unless he secures an agreement from the G8 that mandatory national targets are essential to progress," said Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Norman Baker.

"It is all very well for the government to trumpet the merits of technology in reducing carbon emissions, but it simply isn't enough; we need robust, measurable targets, not just vague aspirations."

If Blair was serious about tackling climate change, he had to ensure targets were a central plank of his approach.

"He needs to be clear that we are not willing to move at the pace of the slowest -- namely the Bush administration. If they are not willing to sign up to sensible international agreements, we will need to assemble a coalition of countries who are."

Baker added: "We urgently need the G8 -- or G7 if the Americans will not cooperate -- to make sure that we set mandatory national targets beyond the 2012 Kyoto agreement."

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said it was crucial that ministers attending the London talks used the dialog as a stepping stone towards December's U.N. negotiations in Montreal, and worked towards "real targets with proper funding.

"Warm words and woolly commitments are not enough," he said. "Climate change is threatening the lives of millions."

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Mediterranean Basin, Alps Most Vulnerable To Global Warming
Washington (AFP) Nov 01, 2005
The Mediterranean basin and the Alps could be the most affected by climate change brought about by global warming in the 21st century, according to scientific research published Friday in Science magazine.

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