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2000 will be a critical year for reversing greenhouse gas emissions trends

Nairobi, 8 November 1999 - The fate of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries will be determined over the next twelve months, Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said here today.

Speaking after the conclusion of the Fifth Session of the Conference of the Parties of the Climate Change Convention in Bonn (COP 5), Toepfer praised the political commitment expressed by the over 60 ministers present in Bonn and said ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by 2002 is still achievable. He also repeated his view that the regions that will suffer most from climate change impacts are those where the poorest of the poor live. "Fighting poverty must therefore still be our highest priority," he said. "At the same time, it is also imperative to change consumption patterns, transport structure, and lifestyles in the industrialized world."

In Bonn last week, Ministers and officials from 166 governments set an aggressive timetable for completing the outstanding details of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol by November 2000, thus triggering its early ratification by governments. The deadline for completing the Protocol is the Sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention (COP 6), which has been set for 13 -24 November 2000 in The Hague.

"The deadline for finalizing the details of the Kyoto Protocol at The Hague conference in November 2000 must be respected," said Toepfer. "Only if the international community maintains and intensifies the political momentum for making the Protocol fully operational can we be sure that it will enter into force in time for industrialized countries to achieve their emissions targets."

"As we saw when the 1992 Rio Earth Summit was set as the deadline for adopting the Climate Change Convention, deadline pressure is often essential for reaching difficult political agreements," continued Toepfer. "A successful outcome in The Hague is vital for ensuring ratification of the Protocol by enough countries for entry into force in time for the "Rio Plus 10" conference in 2002," he said.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, rich countries are to reduce their emissions of six greenhouse gases by 5% by the period 2008-2012. However, many of the rules and mechanisms for measuring and implementing emissions cuts have not yet been agreed. They are to be finalized in The Hague by COP 6.

The urgency of taking action to address climate change is demonstrated by UNEP's newly published Global Environment Outlook 2000, an assessment of the status of the world's environment at the beginning of the new millenium. GEO 2000 states that global emissions of carbon dioxide reached a new high of nearly 23,900 million tonnes in 1996 and that emissions continue to mount. It says the average annual increase over the past decade has been 1.3 per cent or nearly 300 million tonnes a year.

Note to Editors (from UNFCCC press release)

The Kyoto Protocol will only enter into force and become legally- binding when at least 55 countries, including developed countries accounting for at least 55% of developed country emissions, have ratified. So far, only 16 countries - all from the developing world - have ratified. Eighty-three countries plus the European Union have taken the initial step of adding their signature to the agreement.

The agenda of the Bonn conference was based on the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, adopted last year at COP 4. The Plan addresses a number of issues for advancing work under the 1992 Convention and finalizing the rulebook of the Protocol. The results are to be adopted in The Hague.

A number of decisions coming out of Bonn settled important substantive issues. Agreement was reached on how to improve the rigor of national reports from industrialized countries and strengthen the guidelines for measuring their greenhouse gas emissions. Action was also taken to address bottlenecks in the delivery and consideration of national communications by developing countries (although 22 developing countries have already submitted their communications).

Other decisions establish the process negotiators will follow over the coming 12 months. They will make it possible to finalize regimes for non-compliance, capacity building, emissions trading, joint implementation, and a Clean Development Mechanism. They also point the way forward for determining how to address adverse affects on developing countries and how to account for net emissions from forests (which can act as carbon "sinks").

For more information please contact:
Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman on +254-2-623292,

Robert Bisset on
tel: +254-2- 623084, fax: +254-2623692,
Michael Williams,
in Geneva,
on tel: +41-22-917-8242,

UNEP News Release 1999/122

Monday 08 Nov 1999
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