Calls for action to protect the earth's vulnerable climate led off the first ever meeting of the 157 countries that have signed onto the United Nations-backed Kyoto Protocol, which aims to reduce the so-called "greenhouse gasses" that have been determined to cause global warming.

"In my discussions with countries from around the world over the past eight months, it has become clear that there is a growing sense of the need for action," said Canadian Environment Minister Stéphane Dion, President of the UN Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) [http://unfccc.int/files/press/news_room/press_releases_and_advisories/application/pdf/press051128_cop11.pdf ] told delegates to its 11-day meeting yesterday in Montreal, Canada.

The UNFCCC is the189-party framework convention that includes the signatories of the Kyoto agreement, the pact that requires 35 industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent by the year 2012. "Individual citizens and their Governments have underlined their concerns about rising energy prices, energy security, and the growing scientific evidence of the impact of climate change," Mr. Dion continued. He said that the thousands of delegates to the Convention, along with observers from environmental groups, scientific organizations, the business community and representatives of municipal, provincial and state governments will discuss ways to raise awareness and share best practices on reducing climate change. They will also, he said, explore new business opportunities from sustainable technologies and consider how to better prepare for the devastating impacts of climate change on human security, infrastructure, and natural resources.

Richard Kinley, acting head of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn, Germany, called on Governments to give the 1997 Kyoto Protocol the necessary backing to generate more investment in climate-friendly technology. "The launch of the carbon market has provided effective incentive to the private sector and governments at all levels to reduce their environmental footprint," Mr. Kinley said.

"The Montreal Conference will help solidify those opportunities." "Alluding to the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol in February 2005, he said, "It is a pleasure to celebrate the fact that the Protocol is up and running." Around 100 ministers will attend the high-level segment of the Conference, beginning on Wednesday, which will be opened by the Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, and the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette.