Kyoto alone is not enough to tackle climate change

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It is crucial that the world does not come to regard the Kyoto protocol, which comes into force tomorrow, as any sort of "solution" to the problem of climate change. The protocol, which obliges 55 industrial nations to cut their carbon emissions, is merely the first step on a long, difficult journey.

It is crucial that the world does not come to regard the Kyoto protocol, which comes into force tomorrow, as any sort of "solution" to the problem of climate change. The protocol, which obliges 55 industrial nations to cut their carbon emissions, is merely the first step on a long, difficult journey.

And recent scientific research has indicated that we are badly behind schedule. Sea levels are rising, the polar ice caps are melting and the earth is heating up at a frightening rate. The conference of climatologists that gathered in Exeter recently spelled out in no uncertain terms the catastrophe that will befall our planet unless we take urgent action.

The targets set by the 1997 protocol - to reduce emissions by 2012 to 5.2 per cent below the 1990 levels - are grossly inadequate. Our own government's unilateral goal of reducing emissions by 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010 is substantially closer to what is necessary.

This ambitious target would be a source of pride were it not for the fact that Britain is not on course to reach it. This revelation is an embarrassment for Tony Blair, considering that he has pledged to use Britain's presidency of the G8 this year to push the need to tackle climate change to the top of the international agenda. It leaves him open, once again, of talking well but failing to deliver. It is also distinctly odd that our government is obstructing attempts by the EU to bring in tougher Europe-wide emissions targets.

Another embarrassment for the Prime Minister is the fact that his close ally, George Bush, is still showing no signs of taking the issue of climate change seriously, despite the fact that the United States is by far the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Whether Mr Blair will be able to soften the intransigence of the US President will be a key test of how much influence our Prime Minister really has on the other side of the Atlantic.

The implementation of Kyoto is undoubtedly a step forward, but it will take a great deal more before it is possible to say that the world has truly faced up to the terrible threat posed by climate change.

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