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G8 SUMMIT: Developing Countries Stand Firm by Kyoto Protocol

Sanjay Suri

GLENEAGLES, Scotland, Jul 7 2005 (IPS) - Leading developing countries delivered an open challenge to the G8 nations Thursday over proposals to abandon the Kyoto Protocol as the means to contain global climate change.

The first indication of a change on the Kyoto deal came less than an hour before the bomb blasts in London. Far from converting U.S. President George W. Bush on the need to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol, what happened was quite the opposite.

Blair acknowledged in a statement that the United States will never accept the Kyoto Protocol, and there is "no point going back over the Kyoto debate."

Bush said fast-developing nations like China and India must be involved in a future deal, and therefore welcomed the attendance of leaders from India and China at the summit of the Group of Eight most powerful industrialised countries.

"Now is the time to get beyond the Kyoto period and develop a strategy forward that is inclusive of the developing nations," he said.

The statement could have far-reaching consequences. Under the Kyoto Protocol, only industrialised countries listed in Annex-I are required to cut so-called greenhouse gas emissions over the first implementation period of the protocol by at least 5.2 percent over 1990 levels. That holds only for the Annex-I countries that sign the protocol. Significantly, the United States is not a signatory.

Bush withdrew the U.S. signature from the protocol in 2001, a move seen as the leading obstacle in global efforts to cut emissions and contain climate change.

Curbing emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane is considered key to containing climate change because the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere traps the Sun’s heat.

Developing countries were not held to the Kyoto Protocol on the basis that it is industrialised countries that produce most of the emissions and more urgently need to take corrective action. The United States alone is responsible for around 25 percent of all global emissions. Developing countries were asked to do their bit, but were not bound to take action, under the principle of "shared but differentiated responsibility."

Talk from Bush and Blair now on including developing countries in a successor deal to the Kyoto Protocol could have a devastating impact on the economies of developing countries, which may have to invest in expensive new technology, driving up production costs and undermining the ability of their exports to compete on the global market.

Leaders of the five developing countries invited to the G8 summit Thursday – India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and China – had come clearly prepared to resist attempts to rope them into the kind of commitments the Kyoto Protocol sets out for the industrialised countries.

In a joint statement issued within an hour of the comments by Blair and Bush, the five leaders from the developing world said the Kyoto Protocol establishes a regime that "adequately addresses the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development."

They said industrialised countries should take the lead in "international action to combat climate change by fully implementing their obligations of reducing emissions and of providing additional financing and the transfer of cleaner, low-emission and cost-effective technologies to developing countries."

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which led to the Kyoto deal, "establishes economic and social development and poverty eradication as the first and overriding priorities of developing countries," they said. "As such, there is an urgent need for the development and financing of policies, measures and mechanisms to adapt to the inevitable adverse effects of climate change that are being borne mainly by the poor."

Changes in the "unsustainable production and consumption patterns in the industrialised countries must be implemented," the group of five developing countries said. At the same time the industrialised countries "must ensure that technologies with a positive impact on climate change are both accessible and affordable to developing countries."

Environmental groups welcomed the stand taken by the leaders of the "G5" developing countries.

"The big developing countries have shown that there is only one world leader in Gleneagles this week who thinks that the Kyoto Protocol is the wrong way forward, and that is President Bush," Tony Juniper from Friends of the Earth said in a statement.

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