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Germany

Bonn Climate Conference Ends on Upbeat Note

A two-week U.N. climate conference in Bonn, which ended Friday, for the first time focussed on concrete projects in developing nations designed to reduce emission of greenhouse gases widely blamed for global warming.

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Scientists believe global warming is melting sea ice in the Arctic at an alarming rate.

Most industrial nations, with the notable exception of the United States, the world‘s biggest polluter, have ratified the 1997Kyoto protocol which seeks to reduce richer nations‘ emissions of gases blamed for the phenomenon.

The Kyoto protocol also has a provision for "clean development mechanism" – which allows richer nations to fund projects such as wind farms and solar energy parks in developing countries and get credits towards their own goals of cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.

At a two-week United Nations climate conference in Bonn, which came to an end Friday, delegates for the first time reviewed 12 concrete projects presented to the U.N. body ranging from landfill plants in emerging economies to wind farms. Though delegates failed to approve a single project, the message was that though most projects contained valuable ideas, they did not comply with the strict criteria of the U.N. panel drawn up to assess them.

Environmental integrity a crucial topic

Axel Michaelowa, head of climate research at the Hamburg Institute of International Economics told Deutsche Welle that the failure to accept even a single project wasn’t necessarily a setback.

"It made unmistakably clear that environmental integrity is a major issue and that projects have to show that they are additional. Which means that they would not have happened under business as usual," Michaelowa said. He added that many developers were given a sobering signal: "Many developers tried to scrape through and they got a clear signal: stop, these types of projects will not be accepted."

However the backers of several projects will, still be able to resubmit revised applications at the end of the month. These include advocates of a landfill plant in South Africa, a wind farm in Jamaica and a project in South Korea, who say their projects are designed to cut back the emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

Michaelowa explained that landfills play an important role in the context of climate change. "Landfill gas consists mainly of methane and methane is a gas that has a 21 times higher warming potential than C02, so even smaller projects can generate a lot emission credits. Then we have several types of renewable energy, mainly biomass-based energy such as rice husks in Thailand or gas in Brazil which comes from sugarcane production."

Russian ratification a major step forward for Kyoto protocol

Despite the apparent lack of results at the conference, the mood was encouraging and there were hopes that the Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below 1990s levels by 2012, will take effect if Russia ratifies it too, as it has pledged.

Steven Guilbeault, climate campaigner with the environmental organization Greenpeace, told Deutsche Welle this is likely to happen soon. "We‘ve received numerous signals from the highest levels of the Russian government and various European governments. Various European governments have claimed they have received similar signals - in terms of it, it is no longer the question of will Russia ratify the Kyoto protocol, but rather of when will Russia ratify the Kyoto Protocol."

Should the Russian Duma ratify by September 13, the Kyoto Agreement would come into force by the forthcoming Milan climate summit in December.

The Milan summit, the ninth such event, will focus on the issue of so-called carbon sinks. Trees absorb CO2 and developed countries may earn credits for planting forests which they could offset against their emission cutting targets. It will also seek to enhance observation of the effects of climate change, particularly in the developing world, and aim to push climate change policies higher up governments‘ agendas.