`Too late to stop global warming'

Alarm as the world's leading environmentalist issues an unprecedented doomsday warning

THE KYOTO protocol, the international treaty to combat climate change, is failing, and it could already be too late to stop global warming, the world's most senior environmental official warned yesterday.

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.

Leading article,

Review, page 3

UN warning, page 6

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible