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Planet Ark World Environment News EU firm on climate change, to push Russia on Kyoto

Date: 04-Mar-04
Country: BELGIUM
Author: Jeremy Smith

"I repeat our commitment to fighting climate change. We have unanimous commitment to the Kyoto process. There has been no proposal for an alternative if Russia doesn't ratify," European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said.

"We believe in the Kyoto Protocol, we should continue to fight for early implementation and ratification," she told a news conference after a meeting of EU environment ministers.

Diplomats said the only EU state that had voiced objections to the bloc's momentum on implementing Kyoto was Italy, which insisted on Russian ratification of the pact before the EU presses ahead with its strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Russia holds the key to Kyoto and needs to ratify the pact to bring it into force after the United States withdrew in 2000. In recent months Moscow has backed away from promises to ratify it.

"The only delegation not able to agree...was Italy. They feel very strongly about it, asking why they should make efforts when others aren't ready to do the same," one said.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the EU has promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels such as oil and gas, by eight percent of 1990 levels by between 2008-2012.

DIFFICULT, CONTROVERSIAL

The Commission, architect of the laws which stand behind EU climate change pledges, has had to deny a split in its ranks after Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio said the EU should rethink its strategy if Russia does not back it.

"We should continue to show leadership on this issue...which is on top of the environment agenda. It will continue to be difficult and controversial," Wallstrom said.

The Protocol seeks to curb emissions of gases like carbon dioxide from fossil fuels burnt in factories and cars that are blamed for blanketing the planet and driving up temperatures, raising sea levels and causing natural disasters.
As the lynchpin of its Kyoto efforts, the EU has launched an ambitious emissions trading scheme where many plants in the power, oil refining, smelting, steel and other sectors will need special permits to emit carbon dioxide (CO2) from 2005.

Several major industrial companies have voiced their concerns over the scheme, saying EU plans to cut emissions after 2012 might be premature if Kyoto does not come into force.

German power firm RWE (RWEG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) said the scheme could not go ahead with just a few states and should be postponed if needed.

RWE board member Gert Maichel said only a few EU states were going to be ready for emissions trading.

"The Commission should make up its mind. Either have all member states in January 2005 or postpone the whole system for another year," he told the Energy Choices for Europe conference.

Companies that exceed their carbon dioxide caps may buy emissions permits - the right to pollute - from firms that end up within their targets. The permits can be traded, creating a secondary market and a financial incentive to reduce pollution.

Britain is leading the way in preparing for the start of the emission trading scheme, being the first to publish a national allocation plan for industrial emissions of CO2.

All plans are due to be published by the end of March, approved by July and allocated by October, with trading to begin three months later for an initial two-year period.

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