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Global warming Sunday, 15 November, 1998, 07:28 GMT
UK rejects attack on climate deal
Austrian delegates working at the Climate summit
The deal was agreed by 160 nations
Environmentalists say a new global agreement to tackle greenhouse gases fails to do enough to halt climate change.

Global warming
But UK Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott has rejected the criticisms.

Emerging from the negotiations at the United Nations Climate Conference in Buenos Aires, he said it was "a very good day for the environment".

Friends of the Earth labelled the agreement, thrashed out between 160 countries, as an "inaction" plan.

The group warned that the world had lost valuable time in the race to stave off climate change.

At stake is one of the Earth's most troubling environmental issues: undue warming of the planet believed to be made worse by carbon dioxide released from burning coal and gas, principally from power plants and cars.

Timetable for cuts

Last December, 38 industrial nations met in Kyoto, Japan and agreed to binding reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions by 2012, setting a target 5% below 1990 levels.

The Buenos Aires deal sets a timetable for the gradual implementation of that cut.

There is also a framework for starting to transfer high technology and investment from the developed to the developing world.

The intention is to encourage investment in projects which reduce greenhouse gas pollution to create credits that can be used as offsets against pollution elsewhere.

To make the system work it is thought inevitable that a trade in carbon dioxide pollution permits will be set up.

Car exhaust fumes: A major cause of the problem
Although not dealt with specifically in the text, such a system would require major polluting companies to buy the right to pollute in the form of tradable permits.

Outstanding issues not resolved include whether to impose penalties on nations which do not achieve their targets, how to transfer climate-friendly technology to developing countries so they pollute less, and the nuts and bolts of how to measure the pollutants.

Too little, too late

FOE claimed the conference had failed to face up to the fact that the Kyoto targets were not ambitious enough.

"Every year that they put off hard political decisions, dangerous climate change becomes an increasing inevitability," the group said.

"This meeting has been a trade fair, wrangling over how to keep the fossil fuel industry alive and burning."

Greenpeace climate campaigner Stephanie Tunmore said the real issue of escalating greenhouse gas emissions had been "obscured by a thick fog of jargon".

She added: "Climate is getting pushed further and further down the agenda."

UK defends agreement

Prescott: Delighted with the deal
However, Mr Prescott denied the agreement fudged the real issues.

"In a short time we have come a long way in trying to combat climate change for future generations," he said.

"We set legally binding targets in Kyoto. Now, less than 12 months later, developed countries have set themselves an action plan to deliver those targets.

"Throughout this international process the UK has played a leading role, both in international diplomacy and in pioneering the science which underpins it."

BBC News
John Prescott: "A good day for the environment."
BBC News
Robert Pigott: The deal represents limited progress
See also:

04 Nov 98 | World
11 Nov 98 | Global warming
05 Nov 98 | World
10 Nov 98 | Global warming
13 Nov 98 | Global warming
14 Nov 98 | Global warming
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