Kyoto defies sceptics to survive Montreal summit

Formal restrictions on the industrialised world's carbon emissions are set to continue beyond 2012 after leaders at the UN summit in Montreal came to an agreement which surprised a doubting world.

Most commentators had believed the Kyoto Protocol, which sets carbon targets and penalties, would run out of steam when it reached the end of its first phase in 2012.

With the US and its small band of oil-rich supporters attempting to block the process in favour of a ‘technology led’ solution, few had pinned too much hope on the future of Kyoto.

But environmentalists were left celebrating after world leaders called America’s bluff, forcing the Whitehouse to make an embarrassing u-turn after its negotiators’ walkout failed to attract the support it had expected.

A last-minute procedural impasse brought up by Russia also threatened to stall the talks but the deadlock was eventually broken, with Kyoto signatories agreeing to set future targets and the rest of the world accepting it was time for a formal, though non-binding, ‘exchange of views’ on climate change and ways to combat it.

While this constitutes little more than an acknowledgement it would be good to talk, and the wording of the agreement has been watered down at the behest of the USA to make it all very non-committal, pro-Kyoto leaders have nevertheless welcomed it as progress.

UK Environment Minister Margaret Beckett told the British press she was delighted with the result and we had ‘got everything we came here for’.

Members of the many green pressure groups that had lobbied Governments and their delegates to push forward with Kyoto were also pleasantly surprised.

Responding to the conclusion of the Montreal climate change talks today, Guy Thompson, Director of Green Alliance said:

“This is as good an outcome as we could have hoped for at Montreal,” said Guy Thompson, director of Green Alliance.

“It keeps Kyoto alive and builds momentum towards a legally binding global framework beyond 2012. The EU and its allies have shown that they mean business.

“They now need to look beyond the Bush Presidency and start building long term alliances with the US political and business leaders who want to play ball. We need to place our sights on bringing the next US President on board in 2009.”

Greenpeace was also delighted at the result.

“The Kyoto Protocol is stronger today than it was two weeks ago,” said Bill Hare, the charity’s climate policy advisor in Montreal.

“This historic first Meeting of the Parties has acknowledged the urgency of the threat that climate change poses to the world’s poorest people, and eventually, to all of us. The decisions made here have cleared the way for long term action.”

Friends of the Earth’s Tony Juniper said: “Despite Russia’s attempt to wreck the deal, this meeting has made a historic agreement which will strengthen global resolve with legally-binding targets to take action to tackle climate change under the Kyoto Protocol.

“It has sent a clear signal that the future lies in cleaner and more sustainable technologies and is good news for people everywhere.”

By Sam Bond

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