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Germany

Germany Seeks to Extend Climate Accords

Germany's new environment minister is calling for binding climate-change accords beyond Kyoto -- with or without US participation.

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To protect the ozone layer, Germany wants to get talks rolling now

Sigmar Gabriel became Germany's environment minister just over two weeks ago, but he took the definitive stance of a seasoned leader at the climate change conference in Montreal.

High up on the conference agenda is the search for a plan to take effect after the Kyoto Protocol agreement runs out, in 2012. So far, ministers -- including Germany's Gabriel -- have been clear in their demands that the world act now in order to get a follow-up agreement in place.

Setting 'ambitious goals'

Gabriel has made it clear that Berlin wants more binding targets on emissions reduction -- with or without the support of the United States.

Sigmar Gabriel

Sigmar Gabriel may be new to the job, but he took a stance like a pro

The United States is the world's largest polluter, responsible for a full quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet it and Australia are the two nations that have refused to agree to the binding targets under the current Kyoto Protocol.

“What we need is to begin the second phase of negotiations that must be completed by 2009, so that when 2012 rolls around we aren’t stuck without an agreement´," Gabriel said. "That’s what this is about. And it must include ambitious goals like the ones we have now."

Watchdog 'pleasantly surprised'

Christoph Bals, a climate expert with the non-governmental organization Germanwatch, said he was happy with Gabriel’s approach.

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“We are pleasantly surprised how the minister has taken up the challenge of the conference. He made clear that climate is his main issue and his message seems to be quite strong and he has a clear understanding that … binding targets are necessary, and (that they) will come," he said.

Many observers worry that Washington’s insistence on a nonbinding agreement is hindering the process. American delegates have erased all hope of the Bush administration taking part in any new international accord.

But this position isn’t a new one for the US. President George W. Bush has stated many times that America wouldn’t tie itself to any multilateral agreement.

'Don't wait for the US'

Under the terms of the current Kyoto accord, 38 leading industrial countries agreed to lower the emissions from six gases until they are 5.2 percent less than the levels in 1990. The European Union promised an 8 percent reduction, although it has only managed to cut greenhouse emissions by 1.4 percent thus far.

Reinhard Loske, an environment expert with Germany’s Green party, said the international community has to move forward without the US.

“My conclusion is, don’t wait for the US, don’t hide behind the US, but in the medium term we should try to get the US back on board. And as long as this is not the case, we should try to cooperate with those who are willing in the US.”

The nations signed up to the Kyoto Protocol have indicated that they are willing to leave the door open for the US for another two years. If by 2007 Washington maintains it’s current stance, then the parties to the Protocol will move ahead without the world’s largest emitter.

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