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As Global Warming Debate Heats Up, Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change Meets in Nairobi To Review Latest Scientific Findings

Nairobi, 30 March 2001 - An important meeting to chart the future of the official scientific body which advises governments on climate change will take place next week at the Nairobi headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The scientists, members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), meet as the United States is questioning the science of global warming and the Kyoto Protocol which is the mechanism agreed by nations in 1997 for tackling climate change.

Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of UNEP, said yesterday:"The IPCC has provided the world community with first class assessments of the soaring temperatures the world is facing, the devastating impacts of these rises and the ways in which we can try and avoid the worst effects of global warming".

"Its future work will also be vital. Our scientific knowledge on global warming has advanced considerably since Kyoto. We now know climate change is real and the hand of humankind in this warming is becoming clearer and clearer," he said.

"Indeed, the latest scientific assessments show that global warming is intensifying with serious consequences for each and everyone of us. But there are certainly strategic options available for governments, industry and society to fight the worst effects. We at UNEP are clear that this can be done without damaging the stability of national economies. Indeed, averting climate change offers real opportunities to develop new technologies and markets rather than damaging prosperity," said Mr Toepfer.

He said that next week's meeting in Nairobi of the IPCC had taken on new significance:" I would ask those countries with any lingering doubts about the science of global warming to come forward, to tell us areas where they believe the science is incomplete, so the IPCC can address those concerns".

Mr Toepfer highlighted the interaction of greenhouse gases with stratospheric ozone as one possible area of future research by the IPCC, which was jointly established by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization.

The IPCC Plenary, which meets on the 4 - 6 April to formally adopt recent Working Group reports on climate change, will involve governments, officials and international scientists.

Scientific assessments from the IPCC feed into the Kyoto Protocol which was signed four years ago in Japan.

The Kyoto Protocol requires industrial nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 per cent between 2008-2012. Talks on the Protocol stalled in The Hague in The Netherlands last November.

Mr Toepfer said:"The meeting in Bonn in July offers countries the opportunity to clarify the Protocol. But it is vital that this does not lead to a diluting or watering down of its environmental integrity".

"Those countries which are criticizing the Kyoto Protocol should recall that it is a flexible instrument that allows nations to meet emission reduction targets in a variety of economically effective ways," he said.

A concern being expressed by the United States is that developing countries need to be included in emissions cutbacks alongside the developed world.

"We need to advance provisions, under the Kyoto Protocol, whereby developing countries are assisted by industrialized ones to reduce emissions. These include the technology transfer of cleaner forms of energy production such as leaner burning coal and more energy efficient gas power stations alongside renewables, including solar, wind and biomass," said Mr Toepfer.

"Reducing emissions of carbon dioxide by being more careful efficient in our use of energy in our homes, business and factories must also be part of this effort," he said.

Mr Toepfer said a provision in the Kyoto Protocol called the Clean Development Mechanism offered the chance to deliver this technology transfer.

He said that such transfer of modern, cleaner, energy technologies would not only help the world combat climate change but to a large degree assist in poverty reduction in the developing world.

Mr Toepfer said that the United States, which emits around 25 per cent of world emissions of greenhouse gases, could not be ignored.

"The United States is an important part of the problem, but also an important part of the solution. It has an advanced economy with the technology able to help avert the threat of damaging climate change," said Mr Toepfer.

"I therefore urge all governments to meet and negotiate in Bonn and agree the terms and conditions for meeting emission reductions so that industrial countries can ratify the Kyoto Protocol," he said.

However, he also strongly urged industry and civil society not to wait for a legally binding instrument to be agreed.

"There is so much to gain from curbing emissions and making the world less energy dependent and more climate friendly. Industry and civil society have obligations to act now whether or not a legally binding Protocol is in place," he said.

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Notes to editors: The IPCC was established jointly by UNEP and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988.

The 17th Session of IPCC (Plenary) will be held in Nairobi from 4 to 6 April 2001. The meeting will adopt the reports of the three Working Groups of IPCC. These were approved by the Working Groups in Shanghai (17-20 Jan 2001), Geneva (13-16 Feb 2001) and Accra (28 Feb-3 Mar 2001), respectively. The three reports with their summaries and the Synthesis Report constitute the Third Assessment of the IPCC.

One of the key issues to be discussed and decided at the Nairobi Plenary is the IPCC future in terms of general thrust of the IPCC role, continuation of comprehensive assessments, structure of the working groups, role and emphasis of special reports and their management, and a new Bureau. IPCC work programme and budget will also be decided.

For more information please contact: Nick Nuttall, Media Officer, UNEP, P.O.Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel: 254 2 623084, mobile: 254 (0) 733 632755, e-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org or Tore Brevik, UNEP Spokesman/Director, Communications and Public Information, in Nairobi on Tel: 254 2 623292, fax: 254 2 623927, e-mail: tore.brevik@unep.org

Please fax or e-mail cuttings/clippings to: 254 2 623927, nick nuttall@unep.org

UNEP News Release 01/44