With less than a fortnight to go before the coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol, Birmingham Ladywood MP Clare Short will join local activists and the general public for a public meeting at Carrs Lane Church Centre in Birmingham on Thursday 3rd February 2005.

The Kyoto Protocol is the only international treaty aimed at reducing human emissions of the greenhouse gases that are causing dangerous climate change. On Thursday, Ms Short will join environmental groups in calling for the international community to support and strengthen Kyoto ahead of a national demonstration in London against the refusal of the USA to ratify the historic treaty.

Clare Short said:

"Climate change is a major threat to the future for people across the world. The poor will suffer most, but all countries will be affected. Urgent action is needed."

The meeting is one of ten around the country organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change, who along with the Green Party and Globalise Resistance, are co-ordinating the Kyoto Climate March in London on Saturday 12th February.

Phil Thornhill, Co-ordinator of the Campaign Against Climate Change, said:

"The aim of these meetings is to help grow the nation-wide movement for action on global climate change. The Kyoto Protocol is an historic achievement but it doesn’t go nearly far enough in committing the industrialised world to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. We can all do our bit to reduce our contribution to climate change, for example by saving energy, buying green electricity, and driving and flying less, but without international action to control greenhouse gas emissions our efforts will be in vain. That’s what makes Kyoto so important and why it must be made to work."

Destructive climate change could be irreversible unless urgent action is taken now to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Stephen Byers, chair of the International Climate Change Task Force, warned on 24th Jan that a critical point, beyond which the world would be irretrievably committed to disastrous climate change, may be reached within 10 years.

Birmingham Friends of the Earth campaigner Jeremy Heighway, who will be speaking at Thursday’s meeting, said:

"The governments which are most successful in implementing the Kyoto Protocol will not only be acting to prevent 'runaway' climate change, but will also be putting in place frameworks for creating sustainable societies and be making their countries less reliant on ever-scarcer, more fought-over resources."

"Climate change has not sat at any negotiating tables agreeing to dates and targets, but there is probably a deadline which it has set. The UK Government must use its special diplomatic position in 2005 to get Kyoto moving now that it is finally coming into force."

"In order to set a good example, you actually need to be a good example. Moving to true sustainability will be as important historically as the Industrial Revolution was. It would be fitting for the UK to make history once more, but for that we need real action at home before we can influence those trailing abroad."

Editor's Notes

1. The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty aimed at reducing human emissions of greenhouse gases by about 5 per cent until 2012. The treaty will enter into force on 16th February 2005 legally binding the participating countries to meet quantitative targets for reducing or limiting their greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is widely accepted that more substantial cuts are needed and that the Kyoto targets were weakened by political wrangling. Negotiations on deeper cuts under the Kyoto Protocol start in earnest in 2005.

The UK Government’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol include reducing all greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. But despite UK Government promises to cut carbon dioxide levels, emissions are higher than when Labour came to power in 1997.

Friends of the Earth wants Prime Minister Tony Blair to review government policies, particularly on transport and energy, as a matter of priority to see where urgent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved. He should also commit the UK to year-on-year cuts in carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas causing human-induced climate change.

2. Clare Short will be joined by Graham Thompson from the Campaign Against Climate Change, Jeremy Heighway from Birmingham Friends of the Earth, Barney Smith from Birmingham Green Party, and Muzammal Hussain of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences.

3. US President George W Bush pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, arguing that US business interests would be harmed by the treaty. The United States is responsible for a quarter of the world's carbon dioxide emissions (the principle greenhouse gas), yet it only has around four per cent of the world's population. The Bush administration’s plan to reduce US emissions intensity by 18 per cent by 2012 overlooks the fact that, according to the plan, absolute emissions will be up 32 per cent by then.

4. In the run-up to the Kyoto Climate March there will be public meetings in London, Brighton, Oxford, Norwich, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff. The London meeting will be on the evening of Thursday 3rd February and speakers will include writer and activist George Monbiot and Green MEP Jean Lambert. But for up-to-date details of all meetings as they become available (speakers, dates, times, venues) visit www.campaigncc.org.

5. The itinerary for the Kyoto Climate March is as follows:

Assemble 11.30am Lincoln's Inn Fields (Holborn Tube)
Bicycle Ride Protest, 9am Thames Barrier (South Side, 10mins from Charlton Rail).
Goes via Greenwich (about 10am) and London Bridge (about 11am) to Lincoln's Inn Fields.

The main march will involve a parade of the flags of all the countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol (132 at last count) and will go from Lincoln's Inn Fields via the ExxonMobil offices and the Australian embassy (Aldwych) to end at the US embassy for speeches at around 2pm

Speakers will include Caroline Lucas MEP (Green Party).

For details of the route visit www.campaigncc.org.