Climate deal OK’d, but disappoints

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Government ministers from Norway and Brazil have managed to push through an extension of the closest thing the world has to an agreement to reduce dangerous carbon emissions. It doesn’t include the world’s most polluting countries, though, and few were satisfied when international climate negotiations ended in Doha over the weekend.

Norway is among the countries going along with the extension of the Kyoto Protocol, but many feel it’s far too weak because it commits relatively few countries to emissions cuts. PHOTO: Miljøverndepartementet

Bård Vegar Solhjell, the Norwegian minister for the environment who led negotiations along with Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado of Brazil, admitted they were “tough,” and that there was vast disagreement among the 200 countries involved as they argued over how to extend the initial UN-backed Kyoto Protocol from 1997.

Solhjell put the best possible spin on the “Kyoto 2″ agreement that finally emerged, however, and claimed he was satisfied. “All negotiations that can quickly cut emissions are extremely important,” Solhjell told newspaper Aftenposten, “and ‘Kyoto 2′ will yield emission cuts in many countries until 2020.”

Norway was among the countries committing themselves to emissions cuts, along with all 27 member nations in the European Union (EU), plus Switzerland and Australia. The US, however, never even ratified the first Kyoto Protocol, and countries with huge populations like China and India were never subject to it. On Saturday it was confirmed that Russia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand were among the countries that didn’t want to be included in Kyoto 2.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who’s been deeply involved in the UN’s various climate conferences over the years, promised to keep working to hammer out a better agreement in the future. Even though the world “should be glad” that the Kyoto pact was extended, “we know that the countries that have committed to it only generate around 14 percent” of the emissions behind climate change.

‘Like a dysfunctional homeowners’ association’
Norwegians themselves have been criticized for not making enough emissions cuts at home, where the country’s per capita rate is high because of the emissions created by Norway’s oil industry that are spread over a small population. Both Solhjell and Stoltenberg have vowed that Norway will meet its commitments, but local environmental leaders remained disappointed over the results of the international climate negotiations in Doha.

Frederic Hauge of Bellona likened the 200 arguing countries to “a dysfunctional homeowners’ association,” where various blocs … fight with each other in emotional, uncompromising patterns.” Hauge claimed the results of this year’s UN Climate Conference “weren’t good enough.”

Lars Haltbrekken, head of the Norwegian chapter of Friends of the Earth (Naturvernforbund), was glad that at least some countries agreed on a “Kyoto 2″ deal, but thinks its emission goals are much too weak. He said the world now “really needs to mobilize to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. I hope next year’s report from the UN’s climate panel will really be a wake-up call.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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