Governments are failing to take the action needed to reach legally binding targets agreed under the Kyoto Protocol, Friends of the Earth International said ahead of the February 16 first anniversary of this global treaty on climate change.

Industrialized countries that have ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol can still reach their greenhouse gas emissions targets, but data from these countries reveal that so far many are failing to bring carbon emissions under control – with emissions in Italy, Canada, and Austria all increasing since 1990. UK emissions are also now rising – putting the UK’s Kyoto commitments in jeopardy.

Friends of the Earth warned that existing emission targets under the treaty are insufficient to avoid dangerous runaway climate change, with far deeper cuts required. But despite dramatic scientific warnings and substantial evidence that climate change is happening faster than previously predicted, global emissions are still on the rise.

“Countries are not on track to meet even their modest Kyoto targets, despite growing recognition that we are already facing dramatic consequences as a result of climate change. If we are to have any hope of keeping temperature increases under control while we still have time, governments around the world must do more to improve energy efficiency, clean up our use of fossil fuels and invest more in sustainable, safe renewables,“ said Friends of the Earth International climate change campaigner Catherine Pearce.

Kyoto’s first anniversary comes at a crucial time with talks due to start on the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol, post 2012. The Montreal declaration strengthened international resolve to continue legally binding targets under Kyoto, despite efforts from the US Administration to block progress.

Talks later this year will consider further emission reductions for the industrialised world, as well as potential action to limit growing emissions from some of the rapidly industrialising countries such as China and India.

Friends of the Earth believes that Western countries which have enjoyed economic growth through the burning of fossil fuels (and have therefore contributed most to climate change) must help finance low carbon development in the south, and phase out public financing of fossil fuels and into cleaner energies.

“One year on from Kyoto coming into force, we must look to a stronger improved Kyoto after 2012. But the strength of the post 2012 climate regime will inevitably depend on how much progress has already been made. Industrialised countries must show greater leadership and provide more support so that developing countries can follow suit,” added Catherine Pearce.