Calls for concerted international action on climate change stepped up over the weekend as President Jacques Chirac of France urged world leaders to redouble their efforts on greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr Chirac, at an environmental conference in Paris on Saturday held in the wake of a landmark United Nations report on Friday, called for the UN to reform its environmental agency to give it greater powers to encourage countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and act as “the global ecological conscience”.
This would be accompanied by a UN declaration of environmental rights – such as rights to water and clean air – and responsibilities – such as emissions reductions.
He said: “The ecological crisis knows no borders. Yet we still act, too often, in a dispersed manner.”
Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, also spoke out after the scientific report, from the 2,500 scientists of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which predicted droughts, floods and more intense storms as the result of a three degree rise in temperatures by the end of the century. The report will form the basis for negotiations on a possible successor to the Kyoto protocol on climate change.
Ms Merkel urged consumers to take concrete steps to protect the environment. “Those who drive their cars cautiously – and don’t press the accelerator to the floor – save petrol and thus reduce the CO2 impact,” she told Bild am Sonntag, the mass-market German newspaper. She also urged the greater use of public transport. “What is pleasing is that in Germany awareness has been increasing for years.”
Germany could become the pioneer in development new environmental technologies, Ms Merkel added.
The reaction from the US government remained muted. The White House called the report “significant” but gave no indication that it might affect policy. President George W. Bush has consistently rejected the Kyoto protocol and any mandatory caps on emissions.