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Kyoto Climate Accord Becomes Operational

Greenpeace activists (unseen) project a message against coal pollution using laserbeams on a river flowing along the Mae Moh coal power plant, in Thailand's northern Lampang province, 30 November 2005. Delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal, Canada got a first hand view of carbon dioxide emissions coming from Thailand's Mae Moh coal power plant, as live images of the coal plant were transmitted to the conference. Greenpeace alledges Mae Moh is the largest and most notorious of its kind in Southeast Asia. AFP photo/HO/Greenpeace/Vinai Dithajohn.

Montreal (AFP) Nov 30, 2005
The controversial Kyoto protocol, aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions, became fully operational on Wednesday after a UN climate conference here adopted the final rules.

The 34 signatory countries -- which do not include the United States -- passed the final regulatory measures by consensus at the Montreal conference.

Conference chairman Stephane Dion, Canada's environment minister, said: "The Kyoto protocol is now fully operational. This is an historic step."

Under the protocol, the 34 agree to limit emissions of gases that cause global warming until 2012.

The Montreal conference is trying to set out preliminary plans to cut emissions when the accord ends.

The United States and Australia, which have refused to ratify the protocol to the UN framework convention on climate change, attended Wednesday's session as observers.

Kyoto was negotiated in 1997 and formally entered into force on February 16, 2005, but could not come into operation until after the formal adoption of the rulebook, which was drawn up over the past four years.

The different countries have hammered out a mechanism for trading pollution rights. The final rules also eased pollution standards by allowing countries to take into account carbon dioxide produced by growing trees.

A separate system setting out sanctions for those who breach the protocol should be adopted before the 12-day conference ends on December 9.

Despite the troubles hounding efforts to restrict pollution, the UN climate secretariat has hailed the new step taken at the conference and the launch of emissions trading.

Richard Kinley, acting head of the UN climate change secretariat, said "Carbon now has a market value. Under the clean development mechanism, investing in projects that provide sustainable development and reduce emissions makes sound business sense."

Under the mechanism, developed countries can invest in other developed countries, particularly in central and eastern Europe, to earn carbon allowances which they can use to meet their emission reduction commitments.

Industrialised nations can also invest in "sustainable development projects" in developing countries to extra pollution allowances.

The United States on Tuesday opposed any talk of extending Kyoto-style limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

"The United States is opposed to any such discussions," Harlan Watson, head of the US delegation, said.

He said that Americans did not want an approach including objectives or a timetable to reduce the emissions.

The United States refused to ratify the Kyoto agreement, which called for reductions by six percent of emissions from their 1990 levels, saying the reductions applied more stringently to developed countries than to developing ones.

Washington has since 2002 embarked on a policy to reduce its emissions by 18 percent without harming the US economy, he said.

The United States, with five percent of the world's population, emits 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.

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