by Ray Fleming
IT took two weeks of intense negotiation among representatives of more than 150 countries but eventually at 0617 Montreal time yesterday the UN Conference on Global Warming was brought to a successful conclusion. For the Canadian chairperson, minister of the environment Stephane Dion, it was a triumph of skill and perseverance. Against all the odds and gloomy predictions the conference agreed on two important measures: to extend the Kyoto Treaty on emission controls beyond its present expiry date of 2012; and to start new, open-ended and non-binding talks on ways to counter global warming and climate change that will include the United States and a few other countries which are not signatories to the Kyoto Treaty. It will take weeks to sort out the full implications of yesterday's agreement but the essential point is that the vast majority of the countries present in Montreal recognised the reality and the enormity of the threat facing Planet Earth from global warming and were determined to work constructively to find solutions to the problem. It is regrettable that the United States continued its stubborn and blinkered opposition to the Kyoto Treaty even to the point that its chief representative, Harlan Wilson, provocatively walked out of the conference on Friday. However, wiser counsels prevailed, possibly as a consequence of Bill Clinton's frank assertion that the US position was “flat wrong” and his prediction that if nothing was done about global warming and the melting Polar ice, “a future conference might have to be held on a raft somewhere”. A justifiably euphoric Stephane Dion described the outcome of the Conference as “A map for the future, the Montreal Action Plan, the MAP.”

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