EU divided over Kyoto

European Union Environment Ministers meet on Monday in Brussels to debate the application of the Protocol of Kyoto, which regulates Greenhouse Effect Gas (GEG) emission.

One week after President George Bush made an alternative offer, backed by the Russian Federation and Australia, to stimulate voluntary reductions by industry, rewarded by government, the EU debates the perspectives for the Protocol of Kyoto to be approved.

This Protocol stipulates quotas for GEG reductions to 1990 levels of emission. For the EU in general, Kyoto fixes a GEG emission level of 8% less than 1990 GEG emission rates to be achieved by 2012.

There is a strong will among the 15 member states in favour of ratification of the Protocol. However, the main point dividing the states is the choice for a juridical base for the application of approval: whether this should be by unanimity of a simple majority. The point is that such a choice could set a legal precedent for other issues of local or national importance in future, and states fear a loss of sovereignty.

The European Commission considers it essential that Kyoto should be ratified, to strengthen the position of leadership undertaken by the 15 after the USA abandoned the proposal as being too damaging to the US economy. It is intended to make Kyoto the centre of the forthcoming World Summit for Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The move to ratify the Protocol of Kyoto has the full backing of ecological movements, such as Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and the Climate Action Network-Europe.


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