`Too late to stop global warming'
Alarm as the world's leading environmentalist issues an unprecedented doomsday warning
The targets in the treaty for cutting greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, agreed by the countries of the industrialised world, may not be met, said Dr Klaus Topfer, head of the UN Environment Programme.
Dr Topfer pointed to Hurricane Floyd as a typical example of the increased climatic instability that global warming is predicted to bring. "I'm not pessimistic, I'm realistic," he said. "We should be honest in analysis, in the question of where we are. But I'm not giving any signal of resignation."
However, his gloomy prediction, remarkable from a man in so senior a position, is a significant puncturing of the euphoria engendered by the agreement put together in Japan nearly two years ago.
Under its terms, Britain and the other leading industrial nations, including the EU members, the United States, Canada and Japan, agreed to make significant reductions in their emissions of six of the industrial gases known to be retaining more of the sun's heat in the atmosphere, in the so-called greenhouse effect. All the countries agreed to meet precise targets by 2010.
But the former German environment minister said that the programmes of action that had now been agreed were simply not enough. "Indications are that it is too late to prevent global warming," he said.
The protocol had started "in a very positive direction," he said, but what had been decided in the various countries "does not seem to be enough to reach the targets".
He would not single out individual nations, but in an unmistakable reference to the US said: "I really believe that the main contributor of emissions of CO2 must speed up its activities." America alone emits nearly a quarter of the world's CO2, but the US is still arguing about what to do, or not do, about its Kyoto commitments. Much of its business community and many members of Congress are against any action at all, while the Clinton administration is actively pressing the possibility of buying more on-paper reductions of CO2 from other countries, the so-called "hot air".
Real cuts in CO2 would involve much less use of motor vehicles and much more use of renewable energy sources, such as wind, wave and solar power.
Britain's Kyoto commitment is to cut back on its emissions of CO2 and other gases by 12.5 per cent to below their1990 levels by 2010. The Government has made its own commitment to make this a 20 per cent cut by the same date. It is still consulting about its action plan to deliver the cutbacks. John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, had no comment about Dr Topfer's Kyoto warning.
International negotiations on taking the protocol forward will resume in a major international meeting to be held in Bonn at the end of next month.
Review, page 3
UN warning, page 6
That's some guestlist! Stunning images show huge dynastic wedding between Ultra-Orthodox Jewish families which attracted 25,000 guests
Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
Video: Woolwich attack - man with bloodied hands and knife addresses camera
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, the mother-of-two hailed as a hero for confronting Woolwich attackers, thought: 'better me than a child'
- 1 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 2 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 3 Grace Dent: I’m not sure how these people can avoid being called ‘bigots’. And the more ‘civilised’, the worse they are
- 4 Woolwich murder: They killed, then they performed - these men should be starved of our attention
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.