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European Union Approves Kyoto Protocol

March 4, 2002

The member states of the European Union on Monday approved the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States had earlier rejected.

Paving the way to a reduction of carbon dioxide emissionsImage: AP

The European Union is standing firm on environmental protection and curbing greenhouse gases. On Monday, the 15 European Union member states agreed to be formally bound by the Kyoto treaty on cutting the pollution blamed for global warming.

The EU will complete the ratification of the Kyoto treaty by June first of this year, announced Pia Ahrenkilde-Hansen, the European Commission's spokeswoman for environmental affairs.

Curbing greenhouse gases

The Kyoto Protocol was drawn up by the member states of the United Nations in 1997. It commits its signatories to reducing their emissions of "greenhouse gases" such as carbon dioxide.

Last year, U.S. President George W. Bush dealt the Kyoto Protocol a heavy blow when he pulled out of the pact. Bush said it would hurt the U.S. economy. The U.S. is the world's largest producer of carbon dioxide.

European crusade for Kyoto

Since then, the Europeans have led a diplomatic offensive to save the Kyoto Protocol. They want to ensure that countries like Russia, Japan and Canada will stick with Kyoto.

The pact will only become legally binding if it is ratified by 55 percent of the signatories representing 55 percent of developed countries' 1990 carbon dioxide emissions.

The United States produces one third of those emissions, the EU accounts for 24.2 percent. But since the U.S. isn't going along with Kyoto, almost all other developed countries will need to ratify the protocol if it is to come into legal force.

The Europeans have announced that they are aiming to ratify the Kyoto Protocol before a global summit on sustainable development to be held in South Africa in late summer.

Alternative U.S. plan

Last month U.S. President Bush produced an alternative climate change strategy. It is aimed at encouraging industries to trim emissions.

But environmentalists criticized the President's plan because it lacked the absolute targets and mandatory elements laid down in the Kyoto Protocol.

On Monday, the environmental group Greenpeace said the EU's formal decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol should cause Washington to ditch its strategy. Greenpeace claimed the Bush plan was a gift to the oil industry.

"After President Bush slammed the door on the Kyoto Protocol in March 2001, and the very bad joke of the Bush-Exxon climate plan last month, it is now time for the USA to come back to the Kyoto Protocol," Greenpeace's Michel Raquet said.