Rio summit's green pledges to be broken

Click to follow
The great majority of developed countries will fail to keep Rio Earth Summit promises to stabilise rising emissions of greenhouse gases, oil company executives and civil servants were told yesterday.

Lee Solsbury, a senior official with the International Energy Agency told an oil industry seminar in Paris that the latest forecasts from the countries themselves showed their total annual emissions of carbon dioxide, the most important of the man-made greenhouse gases, would rise by between 8 and 14 per cent between 1990 and 2000.

Yet at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, presidents and prime ministers of the rich countries signed a treaty in which they undertook to freeze emissions at their 1990 level by the end of the century.

Every year since then, their overall output of climate changing CO2, produced by burning fossil fuels, has gone on rising, said Mr Solsbury. "Emissions are likely to grow substantially in the absence of further government intervention," he concluded. His agency is part of the OECD, the club of wealthy developed nations.

The exceptions are Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany and Britain. The first two hardly count, since they only make a minuscule contribution to global CO2 output.

Britain and Germany are world leaders in pressing for countries to take the global warming threat seriously, but their emission cuts are mainly the result of historical flukes.

Britain has recently almost closed down its coal industry, and coal is the fuel which produces most CO2 per unit of energy. Gas, which produces far less, has been substituted. And with German unification, the notoriously energy-inefficient heavy industries of Eastern Germany are being shut down or modernised.

For the rest of the developed world CO2 emissions are forecast to carry on rising beyond 2000. Yet environmental organisations and the European Union are calling for post-2000 cuts, to protect humanity from the threat of destructive climate change in the next century.

A tougher climate change treaty is due to be negotiated between states by the end of next year. But it looks unlikely to achieve any substantial reductions in the world's growth in CO2 emissions, now rising at 2 per cent a year.