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Good news for sustainable development from Bonn?

Representatives of the European union and the Belgian presidency welcomed signs that countries were willing to engage in constructive negotiations on the implementation of the Kyoto protocol as delegates at the latest round of climate change talks, held in Bonn, Germany, final...

Representatives of the European union and the Belgian presidency welcomed signs that countries were willing to engage in constructive negotiations on the implementation of the Kyoto protocol as delegates at the latest round of climate change talks, held in Bonn, Germany, finally hammered together a last minute deal following intense overnight debates. Belgian minister for energy and sustainable development Olivier Deleuze, the EU's lead negotiator at the talks, said that Japan had secured a special exemption from financial penalties for those countries that fail to achieve reduction targets, after the talks had stalled on the issue. Mr Deleuze had earlier called on countries to act now to push through ratification of the protocol: 'No one disputes there is climate change. The best tool [to combat it] is the Kyoto protocol and now we have to negotiate the implementation rules, so that countries can ratify,' he said. EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström echoed Mr Deleuze's call for urgent action, saying: 'We badly need an international agreement to combat climate change. We cannot afford another failure. We are pursuing the fullest possible package of decisions in Bonn and we are willing to negotiate.' As talks stretched into their fourth day, a glimmer of hope was provided by agreement of the negotiating parties on how strictly the protocol's agreement should be applied, and on the extent to which the planting of so-called 'carbon sinks' of pollution-absorbing trees could be used to reduce the amount by which countries have to curtail emissions. The adoption of this compromise proposal would cut reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to less than half the amount envisaged in the Kyoto protocol, but Mr Deleuze stressed the need for European flexibility over the compromise documents: 'If it's a take it or leave it paper, in the spirit of flexibility and because we have talked enough about climate change over the last 10 years, Europe is ready to accept it.' The Kyoto protocol, adopted in 1997 at the third conference of the parties, set targets under which industrialised countries agreed to reduce their combined emission of greenhouse gases by at least of 5 per cent compared to 1990 levels. The next round of Kyoto talks is due to take place in Morocco in late October.