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Germany

Climate Conference Opens in India

Government officials and environmental experts from around the world are gathering in India this week for a conference on global warming. The key issue is the ratification and implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

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Global warming is the main issue at the conference in Delhi

After experiencing some of the century’s worst floods in Europe and a bout of severe droughts in Asia, environmental leaders from across the globe will be getting down to business in New Delhi, India, for a United Nations-sponsored conference on climate change. For the next ten days, experts and politicians will look at ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions and prevent global warming.

The summit, which opened on Wednesday, has been billed as the last chance to ratify the Kyoto Protocol before it becomes too late. "We must bring into force the Protocol without delay. The rise in temperature is already beginning to affect physical and biological systems," said T. R. Baalu, India’s environment minister at the start of the conference. Baalu was appointed president of the conference and has been adamant about the need for an immediate international implementation of the 1997 treaty to control global warming.

No more delays

Germany’s Environment Minister, Jürgen Trittin of the Green Party, echoed Baalu’s statements and warned of the consequences of climate change. Speaking in Berlin before the start of the conference, Trittin appealed to the international community to pave the way for implementation of Kyoto.

"This year we have already experienced the harbingers of climate change," Trittin told the German press, referring to the massive wave of flooding in the country’s East. "In order to reduce the effects of climate change by 2012 (the goal date set by the Kyoto Protocol), the industrial nations will have to undertake significant further steps for protecting the environment, and developing nations will need to begin following suit with their first climate control measures."

In order to reach the Kyoto goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 by 5.2 percent compared to 1990 levels, all countries will need to begin implementing the protocol without delay, Trittin said. In this context, he called on Russia to ratify the international agreement as quickly as possible. Everything is dependent on Russia’s ratification, the minister said. Without it, the protocol will not come into effect, having failed to gather the required 55 signatures representing 55 percent of emissions from industrialized countries.

Getting Russia on board

"In order to avoid a setback in the Kyoto Protocol, it must be the strategic goal of New Delhi to get Russia on board," the director of climate control at the prestigious Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, Hermann E. Ott, told the DPA news agency on Wednesday.

In an interview with DW-RADIO, Professor Ernst von Weizsäcker, the former president of the Wuppertal Institute and a member of the Environment Committee of the German Parliament, described the conference in New Delhi as "probably the last meeting before the Kyoto Protocol comes into legal force. Only the Russian signature is missing."

"It is in the massive self interest of Russia to ratify Kyoto," Weizsäcker said, adding that he thought the country would sign on to the protocol in order to profit from trade in so-called emission rights. After the fall of the Soviet Union and its industrial infrastructures, Russia now produces less carbon dioxide than before, meaning that it now has a surplus in emission rights. According to the Kyoto Protocol, countries with an excess of emission rights (a low level of greenhouse gas production), may sell their rights to countries that produce a greater amount of pollution.

The next step

Once Russia agrees to ratify the protocol, the U.N. Conference on Climate Change can move forward in pressing for the implementation of climate control measures in industrialized countries. This would mean that the target level of reduction by 2012 becomes more concrete, and that the U.N. can put more pressure on signatory states to reduce their emission levels by way of improved technology, Weizsäcker said.

Asked if he thought the Kyoto Protocol would have a significant impact on global warming, Weizsäcker replied that it would, as it would provide the impetus for industrialized countries to develop more greenhouse gas cutting technologies. He cautioned, however, that it would still take at least 50 years before emissions are decreased to an acceptable level.