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Brussels, 31 May 2002

European Union ratifies the Kyoto Protocol

The European Union has ratified the Kyoto Protocol today. This act reaffirms the commitment of the EU and all its Member States to pursue multilateral solutions to issues of global concern. As the ratification papers were deposited at the UN Headquarters in New York, the European Union was represented in New York by the Spanish President of the Environment Council, Jaume Matas, and EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström, as well as several EU environment ministers. Today's events fulfil the EU's ambition to enable the Kyoto Protocol to come into force before the World Summit on Sustainable Development in August/September 2002. The EU calls on other major Parties to ratify as soon as possible and continues to urge the United States to participate in the global framework for addressing climate change.

Spanish Minister of Environment Jaume Matas, as President of the Council of Ministers of Environment of the European Union, noted that "the fact that today we can come to the United Nations to announce that the European Union has fulfilled its political commitment regarding the Kyoto Protocol, is not a simple administrative act, nor is it even political. Rather, it is the expression of the conviction of the millions of citizens of the European Union that the Kyoto Protocol is the best instrument available for working together to achieve our common goal, and their commitment to it".

Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: "This is an historic moment for global efforts to combat climate change. Following today's ratification by the EU and its Member States, the countries responsible for an important share of the industrialised world's emissions in 1990 are legally committed to the global framework to address climate change. The scientific evidence on climate change is stronger than ever. We all know that even the targets in the Kyoto Protocol are only a first step if we want to prevent the severe consequences that climate change could have. All countries have to act, but the industrialised countries have to take the lead. Climate change can only be tackled effectively through a multilateral process. I urge our partners both in the developed and in the developing countries to also ratify the Kyoto Protocol soon."

Minister Matas went on to say that "the European Union's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is a clear indication that, with enough political will and collective social effort, the challenges of our time complex though they may be can be addressed successfully through instruments of multilateral cooperation".

The simultaneous ratification by the EU and its Member States shows once again that the EU is exercising leadership in addressing this global environmental problem. To this effect, the Minister called on "the international community to support a speedy entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol, without a doubt one of the most effective instruments in advancing toward the new model of development we all aspire to, a model of sustainable development".

The first threshold for the Kyoto Protocol's entry into force has now been attained. 55 countries are required to ratify it, and as of today 70 have done so.

"Action to fight climate change is vital to achieve sustainable development", Mrs. Wallström affirmed. "I am convinced that improving the environment through technological progress can actually enhance our competitiveness and economic growth. This is what sustainable development is about: protecting our eco-system while ensuring economic prosperity."

The challenge of attaining the second threshold for the Kyoto Protocol's entry into force, that requires the ratification of countries responsible for 55% of industrialised countries' emissions in 1990, is now much closer.

The EU welcomes progress by other countries including Japan, Norway, New Zealand, Russia, the candidate countries and many developing countries towards ratification. The fact that 70 countries have now ratified the Kyoto Protocol is a clear signal that the Kyoto Protocol, with its legally binding targets and timetables, is the only effective international framework for combating global warming.

Commissioner Wallström concluded by stressing the need for further EU emission reduction measures: "The European Commission has already proposed measures to reduce emissions at the lowest economic cost, including an EU-wide emissions trading scheme to begin in 2005. Further proposals are in the pipeline. However, all Member States have to take responsibility to ensure that they meet their burden-sharing targets."

(See Memo/02/120 for background information on the Kyoto Protocol and climate change)

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