NAIROBI, Feb. 15 (Xinhuanet) -- The entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol is an extremely significant step in the fight against global climate change, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Klaus Toepfer said here Tuesday.
"First and foremost, it is now an reality. We are happy that it comes into force on February 16. The fact that it costs time underlines its importance. It is not only environmentally important, but also economically extremely important," Toepfer told Xinhua in an exclusive interview at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi.
The entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol comes seven months before nations around the world will review progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September at a session of the UN General Assembly.
"These (MDGs) cover the main challenges facing the world from fighting poverty and boosting the standard of living with access to clean and sufficient drinking water to delivering universal primary education and reducing the spread of infectious diseases,"said Toepfer. A recent UN report makes it clear that the environment is a keycornerstone for delivering all of the Goals, Toepfer said, adding that climate change is constantly in the spotlight as the United Nations and some of the world leaders are tackling the economic and other reforms needed for a low carbon world.
"So we need to take this unprecedented political momentum to propel us into a new effort to move beyond the targets and timetables agreed under the Kyoto Protocol toward the even deeper cuts in greenhouse gases necessary to stabilize the world's climate," said the UNEP head.
According to statistics from the re-insurance industry, the year of 2004 witnessed the highest level of insured losses as a result of the kind of weather-related disasters forecast by climate scientists.
The uninsured losses, particularly significant to the development of developing countries and for the poorest of the poor, totaled more than 90 billion US dollars even before the Indian Ocean tsunami is factored into the sums.
"Therefore, let us enjoy this special day as the Kyoto Protocol passes into force, but celebrate with the certain knowledge that we must do much more to achieve climatic stability and thus the MDGs," said Toepfer.
The United States, although a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, has neither ratified nor withdrawn from the UN treaty. "Without doubt, the fight against climate change must integrate the United States of America," said Toepfer.
"It is not possible to make an efficient environment policy without the United States," said Toepfer, adding that the US is needed in this regard because it is a technology power as well as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Some analysts have argued that without the United States the Kyoto Protocol is more dead than alive.
However, Toepfer said that UNEP is not so pessimistic, noting that many individual states in the United States are adopting or planning to adopt greenhouse gas reductions in line with the spirit of the protocol.
"Many businesses there are also active and keen to join the new emission trading schemes and markets opening up. The (US) government itself is also promoting higher energy efficiency and alternatives like hydrogen and solar," said Toepfer.
The UNEP head urges the world to act swift to go beyond the Kyoto Protocol, saying that up to 60 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions is needed to conserve the climate.
"In doing so we can not only reduce the risk of rising, weather-related disasters, but also ensure the stability of the environment upon which, it is now clear, the Millennium Development Goals will stand or fall," Toepfer said.
The Kyoto Protocol, which aims to curb the global warming process, comes into force on Wednesday with most of the industrialized countries ratifying it while the United States and Australia holding out.
The treaty was agreed at a 1997 UN conference in Kyoto, Japan by 159 countries that are members of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. A total of 141 nations have ratified the pact, according to UN data.
It commits the industrialized countries who have ratified it to reduce the amount of six greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)) by 5.2 percent of the 1990 levels during the five-year period of 2008-2012. Enditem
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