South Africa's environment minister called on the United States and other holdouts Monday to sign the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions. "We note with concern that a country like the U.S. ... remains outside the Kyoto Protocol," the minister, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, said as he opened a four-day conference called to explore how his country should respond to global warming.
South Africa has signed the U.N-brokered protocol under which industrialized nations commit themselves to cutting their collective emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels, as well as a U.N. framework convention on climate change.
U.S. President George W. Bush rejected the Kyoto accord. The United States releases into the air a quarter of the world's total annual emissions, about 6.6 million tons, of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases scientists blame for heating the atmosphere like a greenhouse.
Van Schalkwyk, said it was South Africans' duty as "global citizens" to try to persuade others to sign Kyoto, according to the AP.
"We accept that climate change is happening, that there is compelling evidence it is being accelerated by human activity and that it must be addressed," van Schalkwyk said, calling phenomenon like Hurricane Katrina, the storm that devastated the southern coast of the United States, "the collective smoking gun of global climate change."
Van Schalkwyk said developing countries were likely to be especially hard hit by the effects of global warming.
He cited subsistence farmers who lack access to information and money they need to cope with changes in rainfall patterns and temperatures that affect herds and crops.
On photo: South Africa's environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.