October 18, 2005

Poor nations unready for Kyoto cap: S. Africa

By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's environment
minister said on Tuesday it was too soon to set targets for the
developing world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Poorer
countries are exempt from the emission caps under the Kyoto
Protocol. Most developed nations have agreed to cut their
emissions of heat-trapping gases by 5.2 percent from 1990
levels by 2008-12 and a U.N. conference in Montreal next month
will begin discussions on the post-2012 steps.

"It's much too early to start talking about targets for
developing countries," Environment Minister Marthinus van
Schalkwyk told Reuters in an interview.

"But while we put pressure on the developed world we must
put our own house in order," he said on the sidelines of a
conference on climate change in Johannesburg.

He said that meant that the big polluters of the developing
world -- South Africa, India, China and Brazil -- would have to
find ways to curb their emissions of the greenhouse gases
linked to rapid climate change.

South Africa is by far the continent's biggest economy and
the main consumer of heat-trapping fossil fuels.

China is also emerging as a major emitter of greenhouse
gases and many Kyoto supporters would like to see developing
countries commit to targets after 2012.

"It is in our long-term interest as well to start
addressing this challenge," Van Schalkwyk said.

He also said he hoped that the Montreal conference would
set out more time frames for the rich world.

"There are still a number of outstanding issues with regard
to the Kyoto Protocol where the developed world have not done
their duty. For instance the transfer of technology (has been
slow)," he said.

He said South Africa viewed climate change as a serious
threat that could slash yields of its key maize crop in some
western growing regions by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

"We may see the spread of certain diseases. And the most
obvious one for us is malaria," he said.

Africa is seen by some analysts as the most vulnerable
continent to climate change although it emits less greenhouse
gases than any other region of the world.