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U.S. attacked as EU ratifies Kyoto

Environmental groups claim oil companies do not protect the environment enough  

UNITED NATIONS -- All 15 European Union nations have formally ratified the Kyoto protocol against global warming -- and criticised Washington for failing to do its part in protecting the environment.

Representatives of all 15 EU nations and the European Commission handed U.N. Chief Legal Counsel Hans Corell papers signifying their national legislatures had approved the pact, at a ceremony at U.N. headquarters in New York.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed the move as "good news for the entire world."

Margot Wallstrom, European commissioner for the environment, called the ceremony "an historic moment for global efforts to combat climate change."

Global warming:U.S. turns its back on Kyoto 
Oil and the environment 

But she added: "The United States is the only nation to have spoken out against and rejected the global framework for addressing climate change.

"The European Union urges the United States to reconsider its position. All countries have to act, but the industrialised world has to take the lead," she said.

The United States, the world's largest polluter, shunned the treaty shortly after President George W. Bush took office last year, arguing it would harm the U.S. economy.

The pact would have required the United States, which accounts for about a third of the industrialised world's greenhouse gas emissions, to trim emissions by 7 percent on 1990 levels, Reuters news agency reported.

But the Bush administration has instead announced policy changes likely to push them up by 30 percent by 2010, the European Commission says.

The ceremony came as ministers representing the U.N.'s 189 member-nations worked in Bali to complete preparations for a follow-up meeting to the Earth Summit opening in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August.

A top aim of the coming World Summit on Sustainable Development is to ratchet up the fight against global warming, but environmental groups accuse Washington of trying to water down the action plan to be adopted at the summit's close.

Michel Raquet of environmental group Greenpeace called the EU move "very significant" as it brought the Kyoto pact closer to entering into force while giving the EU "the political credibility to put the Johannesburg train back on the right track."

Of those who have signed, but not yet ratified, the Kyoto agreement Japan has said it will ratify shortly and Russia is expected to by the end of the year.

The European Union as a bloc is on course to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gases by 8 percent from 1990 levels, but the picture is patchy across the bloc.

Many member states are finding it tough to meet their individual targets as set under a "burden sharing" agreement, the European Environment Agency has said.

The Kyoto pact, which grew out of the historic 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and was signed in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, is aimed at cutting emissions of polluting greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, which are blamed for rising global temperatures.

To take effect, the pact must be ratified by at least 55 nations representing 55 percent of developed countries' carbon dioxide emissions. Seventy nations have now ratified, representing 26.6 percent of wealthy nations' emissions.

Of the 41 nations that have signed but not yet ratified, Japan has said it will ratify shortly and Russia is expected to do so by the end of the year, which would give the protocol the necessary 55 percent, Wallstrom said.

Environmental group Greenpeace argues that the three biggest oil companies -- Esso, Shell, BP -- and others are still the "bad guys of global warming."

It says the companies show no sign of moving from fossil fuels to "green" fuels like bio-diesel and hydrogen.

Greenpeace says the oil and gas industry donated more than $25 million to the Republican Party in the 2000 U.S. presidential race and says BP and Esso were two of the three biggest donors.

Exxon Mobil says it donated $1.2 million 1999-200 presidential cycle, and BP gave $504,177 through its Political Action Committee, according to Political Money Line, an independent Web site that tracks political contributions.


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