Europe votes to move on the Protocol

When the European Union’s environment ministers agreed last Monday to ratify the Kyoto Protocol by June, they took a major step toward forming an international alliance to try to shoulder a burden which the US is refusing to consider. It is still unsure which countries will be participating in this informal alliance. In order for the Kyoto Protocol to become legally binding, it must be ratified by 55 countries (easily done) which together emit at least 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases (more difficult to achieve after the withdrawal of the US last March). In practice, this means that all the world’s industrial countries must agree to commit themselves to following a process of monitoring and sanctions, while the country which emits the most greenhouses gases of all, the US – along with the larger developing nations such as China – has not agreed to do anything. The Kyoto Protocol is aimed at reducing total greenhouse gas emissions of 1990 by 5 percent by 2010. For Europe, the goal is an 8-percent reduction. The EU’s worst offender, Germany, has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 18.5 percent since 1990, which is only 2.5 percentage points short of the Kyoto target. As for US President Bush’s claim, now echoed by the Canadians, that the fight against the greenhouse effect will inhibit economic growth, the European Commission replied that the measures will cost just 0.06 percent of Europe’s GDP by 2010.

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