by Nizar Al-Aly
(IPS) MARRAKESH --
the environmental group, has accused Australia, Canada, Japan and Russia of trying to "dilute" the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, now being drafted at a conference in the Moroccan City of Marrakesh.
The two-week conference, which is being held in the southern city of Marrakesh, ends on Nov. 9.
With the United States already opting out, a refusal by the four to ratify the treaty would effectively scuttle the protocol..
"Australia, Canada, Japan and Russia intend to sap the decisive accord signed in Bonn," Greenpeace Climate director Bill Hare told journalists in Marrakesh.
The accord was signed at the Bonn Conference in July, paving the way for the finalization of technical and legal modalities of an international agreement on global warming.
The Kyoto Pact, which was named after the Japanese city where it was drawn up in 1997, calls on industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent from their 1990 levels by 2012. After that, further reductions would be negotiated and a list of restricted countries could be expanded.
The treaty must be ratified by 55 countries, including industrialized nations responsible for 55 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted in 1990, for it to become effective. The deadline is September 2002; 10 years after the first action on climate control was adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The protocol was on the verge of collapse last spring, when the United States refused to support it, describing it as unfair. However, the instrument was saved by European concessions to other wealthy nations and developing countries on implementation modalities.
The United States renewed its refusal of the accord in Marrakesh. "The struggle against global warming should be founded on science and should encourage technological innovations and benefit the forces of the market," the U.S. chief negotiator, Harltan Watson, told the conference.
The fight against global warming "cannot be conceived without a global participation of all countries of the world," he said.
Joining Greenpeace, Jennifer Morgan of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) said "Australia is the leader of the backtrack camp."
Hare said Australia was trying to water down binding agreements by changing words like "shall" to "should" throughout the text.
He said Canada and Russia wanted to alter the Bonn agreement on carbon sinks and offset a country's emissions quota.
U.S. industrialists also have come under fire for "attempts to make money out of the implementation of the protocol," while their country continues to reject the ratification of the document.
"These companies are strongly represented in the Marrakesh Conference to put pressure on negotiators," noted Morgan.
Greenpeace and WWF blamed U.S. industrialists for trying to take advantage of what they see as the ambiguity of the political deal concluded in Bonn, meant to put the Kyoto Protocol back on track.
The Bonn deal stipulates that only the countries who will ratify Kyoto would benefit from the mechanisms provided for in the protocol to alleviate the task of industrialized countries compelled to decrease their gas emissions suspected of being the cause of global warming.
However, the deal keeps silent on the participation of the companies of a country that will not ratify the Protocol.
Action Climat Mondial, a network of environmentalist non-governmental organizations (NGOs), joined the call for industrialized countries to ratify the protocol, that it describes as "the sole legal international instrument to engage the world community towards massive reduction of green house gas emissions."
"No sustained development can be achieved if resources harmful to the environment are excessively used," the network said.
It urged developed nations "to make of the Marrakesh talks the last stage in the ongoing process before the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in the World Earth Summit on Sustained Development (Rio+10), to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2002.
Ratification now hinges on the support of such major countries as Russia and Japan.
While Japan seems to be more likely to back the ratification, Russia tries to toughen its position to get maximum concessions to the protocol.
"If an accord is reached in Marrakesh, Japanese environment minister Yoriko Kawaguchi will tell the U.S.A. that Tokyo will prepare for ratification," Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun reported Monday.
But Russia, which became reserved after the U.S. pulls out of the protocol, wants to double the compensation package it will get from adhering to the Pact, observers in Marrakesh say.
The Marrakesh conference caps a four-year effort to draft binding regulations on limiting greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
Nearly 4,000 delegates from 163 countries and non-governmental organizations are attending. The U.S. delegation is observing rather than negotiating.
Committees already met to hammer out legal language in rules that would govern how countries count, monitor, verify and report the emission of greenhouse gases, which are blamed by environmentalists for trapping heat in the earth's atmosphere.
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