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Head of UN Environment Programme Applauds Canada's Decision to Join the International Fight Against Global Warming

Nairobi, 19 December 2002 - Canada's decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the four year-old agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, was today welcomed by Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

He said the move showed "courage and leadership" while recognising the overwhelming scientific and moral arguments for fighting climate change.

"Global warming is the greatest environmental threat this planet faces. The scientific evidence, that pollution from sources such as factories, power plants and vehicles is changing the world's weather systems, is already with us. The moral arguments are equally compelling as it is the poorest of the poor, on Continents like Africa, who stand to suffer most from an upsurge in extreme weather events such as floods and droughts," said Mr Toepfer.

He said Canada's ratification was even more impressive given that country's high reliance on coal, gas and oil.

"The fact that Canada believes it can achieve its reduction targets, despite being a big user and producer of fossil fuels, gives the clear signal to others that fighting global warming is not economic suicide. It shows that reducing the risks of climate change are realistic and necessary which, if managed sensibly, can have important economic benefits in terms of the development of new technologies, jobs and financial markets," said Mr Toepfer.

He said the "eyes of the world" will now be on Russia. Canada's ratification means that those developed countries that have so far ratified, represent close to 44 per cent of the 1990 emissions of carbon dioxide, the principle greenhouse gas.

In order for the Protocol to now enter into force, 55 per cent of the developed world's 1990 emissions, must be covered. Ratification by Russia, with over 17 per cent of the emissions, is therefore crucial for the Protocol to come into force.

"Russia re-iterated at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in August that it will ratify. It is my sincere hope that this will indeed occur in 2003. Several funds and mechanisms have approved, designed to help developed countries off set their emissions at home by carrying out projects such as renewable energy or forestry schemes in poorer countries abroad. These can play their part in fighting poverty, healing the environment and delivering sustainable development but can only become legally operational when Kyoto comes into force," said Mr Toepfer.

For More Information Please Contact Eric Falt, Spokesperson/Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information, on Tel: 254 2 623292, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 682656, E-mail: eric.falt@unep.org or Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, on Tel: 254 2 623084, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 632755, E-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org

UNEP News Release 2002/89