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World: German Expert Comments On Bonn Climate Control Accord

Germany's top expert on climate describes the outcome of the Bonn conference on climate control as disappointing. But he says it might mark a turning point for future international efforts.

Munich, 23 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Germany's top expert on the climate, Mojib Latif, says the outcome of the Bonn conference on climate control is a disappointment. But, he says, it could be a turning-point for the future.

Latif, an expert at the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg, says the compromise agreed upon in Bonn today clearly falls far short of the hopes of the European Union, largely because of the opposition of Japan, Australia, Canada, and Russia.

He argues, however, that it was important to achieve even a minimal agreement, because that could put pressure on the United States -- the chief opponent of the Kyoto Protocol -- and lead to gradual improvements in the future:

"I believe it was right to give other countries the opportunity to cooperate with us and get onboard our boat. That will also put pressure on the United States. And we know from experience that once an agreement is in place, it can be improved step by step. And that way we are building for the future."

Latif acknowledged that environmentalists were critical of those sections of the Bonn agreement that allow countries such as Russia, Japan, and Canada to claim credits because they have large forest areas which can absorb the main greenhouse gas -- carbon dioxide. These credits allow them to lower required reductions in their industrial greenhouse emissions.

Latif said it appears to be true that this part of the Bonn agreement would -- at least theoretically -- allow Canada to increase its emissions by 5 percent instead of cutting them by 6 percent, as originally proposed. He said: "At the moment, this agreement has many holes."

But Latif said critics of the Bonn agreement had to recognize that even if it had accepted everything that the EU wanted, it would still have been a long way from making a real improvement in the global climate.

"One must not make the mistake of believing that the Kyoto Protocol -- or what remains of it -- was really the solution to the problem. We are a long way from that. What we have to achieve is a 50 percent reduction in the next 50 years, and then more reductions so that we arrive at practically zero [emissions] by the year 2100."

Latif said the world must develop a long-term strategy to turn away from fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal, and develop other forms of energy, including solar energy. He said the world had about 100 years to do so, but that it should not waste time. In his view, the Kyoto Protocol was a small step in the right direction, but larger steps must follow.