'Watered down' Kyoto deal is hailed by world leaders but angers green groups

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The Independent Online

The world's leading industrialised countries agreed a set of rules to implement the Kyoto Protocol on climate change yesterday but were immediately accused of creating a "watered-down" version of the 1997 treaty.

The world's leading industrialised countries agreed a set of rules to implement the Kyoto Protocol on climate change yesterday but were immediately accused of creating a "watered-down" version of the 1997 treaty.

The deal, which came at 10am after four days of intense talks in Bonn and an all-night negotiating session, went some way to repairing the chaos created by the collapse of last year's talks in The Hague and the withdrawal four months later by the US.

But Kate Hampton, climate campaigner of Friends of the Earth International, said: "The price of success has been high. The protocol has been heavily diluted. Its effect on the climate has been massively eroded."

Bill Hare, climate policy director of Greenpeace, blamed Opec, the fossil fuel industry and the US for what was now a "watered-down version" of Kyoto.

"They failed to kill off the Kyoto Protocol at this meeting in Bonn, but they came close and what survives is a weaker version of the agreement than was adopted in Kyoto in 1997."

All sides gave ground, conscious that a second negotiating failure would almost certainly mean the end for the treaty, but by far the biggest compromises were made by the European Union. The EU backed down from its tough position in The Hague against countries using forests to soak up carbon dioxide and counting that towards reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Disagreement on this point with the US had led to the collapse of the talks in The Hague, but, yesterday, the EU conceded substantial carbon "sinks" to three countries with big forests, Canada, Japan and Russia.

British officials calculated it might reduce the "real" cuts in global emissions of CO2 expected by the year 2010 by about 8 per cent, but considered it was a price worth paying put the protocol back on the track. One British source said: "It is a political fix but we can live with it."

The final concession that secured agreement was to water down the so-called compliance process, for enforcing the protocol's rules and making nations meet their emissions reduction commitments. At the insistence of Japan, Australia and Russia, this was made "diplomatically" rather than legally binding, although a full compliance procedure has been set up.

The 1,000 delegates attending the talks were openly jubilant and gave a standing ovation to the chairman of the meeting, the Dutch environment minister Jan Pronk, who brokered the deal. The agreement opens the way for the rest of the world to ratify the protocol next year in spite of the US withdrawal.

Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, said: "This is a brilliant day for the environment. I think it is very significant that the rest of the world, despite the enormous setback when the United States took its own decision, has nevertheless rallied supported the protocol and demonstrated to the United States that its death is a little premature.

He added: "It is still very much there. It is alive and kicking, and I very much hope the United States will decide to come back on board.

"Climate change is the single greatest threat to the survival of the human race over the next 200 to 300 years, and this is a historic day that all of us will remember," he added.

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