UK must push international clout on climate change

The UK government has this week come under scrutiny for its efforts to persuade international players to ratify the world's only treaty to tackle climate change. The destiny of the Kyoto Protocol currently rests on the decision of Russia, since the US - the world's largest contributor to global warming - backtracked on its decision to address this issue through the Protocol's mechanisms.

"The Government must take action at the highest levels to persuade other States, in particular, the United States and Russia, to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases," a House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology reported this week.

Lord Mitchell, chair of the inquiry which looked at the scientific basis of international agreements on scientific matters, said: "Global warming can be combated only by global measures. The Kyoto Protocol will ensure that nations begin to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. It gets the process up and running. But it cannot come into force without ratification by the United States and Russia - preferably both."

"The Government must do everything in its power to persuade both these countries to take action," he said.

The UK has set itself up to be an international leader on climate change issues. Environment secretary Margaret Beckett told the Guardian newspaper this week that Tony Blair is looked upon as a world leader on tackling global warming and that part of his legacy would be his attempts at combating environmental issues.

Bryony Worthington, climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth UK, agreed that the UK pulls its weight when it comes to international lobbying on environmental issues - but warned that the UK must practise what it preaches at home.

Ms Worthington told edie that she thought there would be a good chance that the US would back track on its international environmental policy and ratify the Kyoto Protocol, if John Kerry was to be elected President in November (see related story).

She pointed to a Senate bill put forward by Senators Lieberman and McCain on reducing greenhouse gases, which was narrowly rejected. She said this suggests a reason to be hopeful about future actions on climate change (see related story).

By Sorcha Clifford



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