Politicians and civil servants from around the globe have gathered for a crucial summit in Bonn, Germany, in an attempt to salvage the Kyoto protocol on climate change.
Japan has warned that the divide between the USA and other developed nations is unlikely to be settled at this meeting, following the country’s attempts to persuade the USA to lessen its objections to Kyoto. Although Tokyo backs the Kyoto treaty, it is resisting European pressure to press ahead without reaching an agreement with the Bush administration. Recent visits by an EU delegation to Japan has so far failed to persuade the Japanese government to ratify Kyoto without the USA.
The delegation also visited Australia, with similar results.
Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, said the USA was “against the Kyoto protocol but extremely co-operative” on finding a solution to global warming.
Japan’s strong commitment to the nuclear industry is likely to confound matters further. In the previous Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in La Hague last November, the issue of whether nuclear power should be included in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) proved to be a hotly contested point. In the face of strong opposition from the EU, Japan, along with Australia, Canada and the USA, had conceded that nuclear power would not be included in the CDM. However, the La Hague talks to broke down when EU Green ministers refused to compromise on the use of carbon sinks, supported by these same key countries.
A recent report by the Royal Society in London has suggested that carbon sinks do little to tackle global warming and that there is no alternative to emissions cuts. Because of this, and the fact that now that the EU is likely to make some compromises to save the Kyoto protocol, Japan, Australia and Canada are now in a position to extract a tacit agreement that nuclear can be included in the CDM.
Just before the beginning of the summit, a 2600-page report on the science and potential impacts of climate change was produced that said that global warming is even worse than had been previously predicted. The three-volume Climate Change 2001, published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), form the most comprehensive picture of the state of the climate and the global environment that has yet been published. Climate Change 2001 is the IPCC’s third assessment, and updates the second (1996) report with further research confirming that earlier judgements and projections of global mean temperature increases were vastly underestimated. The most up-to-date research and forecasts contained within the latest report predict that global mean temperatures could increase by as much as 5.8?C by the year 2100. The IPCC also concludes that human activity is having a discernible effect on the environment, and that global temperatures are increasing at a rate unprecedented in the last thousand years.
In anticipation of the Bonn summit, CEOs from over 50 companies involved in the nuclear energy sector worldwide have urged negotiators to recognise the role of nuclear power in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
The open letter to government representatives attending the negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change came in response to proposals to exclude nuclear energy projects from two of the Kyoto Protocol’s flexible mechanisms, the CDM and Joint Implementation (JI). If approved, industrialised nations would not be able to claim “carbon credits” for joint “clean energy” projects involving new nuclear facilities in industrialised and developing countries.
The letter points out that, as nuclear electricity generation avoids greenhouse gas emissions, it plays a key role in limiting the potential danger of climate change. The letter, which is addressed to all the government delegates, states: “We encourage you to support policies that give every country engaged in greenhouse gas emission control programmes the right to access all technologies as needed, including nuclear electricity.” The industry leaders call on the governments represented in Bonn to “acknowledge nuclear electricity as an acceptable energy and environmental resource that successfully avoids greenhouse gas emissions.” Distribution of the letter is being carried out on behalf of the CEOs by the International Nuclear Forum (INF), an umbrella group of national and international nuclear associations from around the world. The INF is made up of the Canadian Nuclear Association, the European Atomic Forum, the European Nuclear Society, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, the Korea Atomic Industrial forum, the Nuclear Energy Institute in the USA and the World Nuclear Association.
•European Union transport and energy commissioner Loyola de Palacio has said that countries that phase out nuclear power are irresponsible and are playing a dangerous game with the European economy and the world environment.
In a speech to the French Institute for International Relations in Paris, Palacio said: “It is not responsible to promote the abandonment of nuclear without explaining to public opinion that, beyond its risks – notably to do with the handling of waste – nuclear presents many advantages in terms of price stability, indigenous supply and carbon dioxide emissions.” De Palacio has always been an outspoken supporter of nuclear power, but the Paris speech was the strongest to date. She pointed out that the contribution by the nuclear industry to fighting global warming is often underestimated, and said that nuclear power reduces the EU’s carbon dioxide emissions by 300 million tonnes per year while supplying 35% of its electricity.
The EU Commission is currently involved in a major debate on the future of energy supply for the 15-country bloc in order to draft a range of policies aimed at tackling climate change.