HAVING had 48 hours to think about it, I see no reason to amend the headline I gave my viewpoint in this space on Sunday: “History Is Made”. I chose that a few hours after the UN Montreal Conference on Climate Change had ended and although I know that portentous claims of this kind are often hostages to fortune, I believe that what was achieved at Montreal will indeed prove to be “historic”. I first heard about greenhouse gases, global warming and climate change at a meeting in Washington DC twenty-five years ago. It has taken that long for the world community to begin to accept the truth of what the scientists have been saying, that unless we mend our ways in respect of carbon emissions and other pollutants we will change and possibly destroy life on our planet. There were still some naysayers at Montreal (no prizes for naming them!) but the overwhelming majority of the countries present accepted that the problem exists, that human activity is largely responsible for it and that only collective action to limit emissions will deal with it. Furthermore there was near-unanimous acceptance that the muchcriticised Kyoto Treaty and Protocols remain the best way of ensuring joint international action, and that they need to be strengthened and renewed when their present life ends in 2012. All that having been said, it also has to be recognised that turning the Montreal agreements into action will not be easy. To take one example: since the Kyoto Treaty discussions began it has taken 12 years to get 36 countries to cut their emissions by 5 per cent, and worldwide emissions are still rising alarmingly. Yet, to be effective the target for the next 20-25 years must be around 40 per cent. That is why Kyoto controls will never be enough and what Bill Clinton called in his important speech at Montreal “large scale clean energy and energy conservation technologies” must also be developed and put into use as quickly as possible. The position of the United States remains of the utmost importance. President Bush's policies on climate change were shown to be pathetic last week. But all over the United States city mayors and state governors are committed to fighting global warming and eventually the White House will have to fall into line.


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