Genesis of Eden

Genesis Home

Europe and US clash over cutting Emissions NZ Herald 2-12-97

11 Dec 97 Figures emerge for Summit Treaty

The figures in the wind for a Global Warming treaty are now 8% reduction over 1990 levels in 15 years for Europe, 7% for the US, 6% for Japan, 5% overall for the 38 main industrialized nations, rises for Australia, Norway and Iceland and a freeeze for New Zealand. Some credit to Al Gore for avoiding a complete break down in negotiations.

The ratification figures may now be a little different from this. Both the US and China have managed to negotiate additional terms favourable to themselves. The US included tradable rights to pollution shortfalls of other nations raising the spectre of buying up CO2 emission rights at possibly discount prices. China has muscled its way to an exemption as a developing nation. What is clear is that it is good that world nations have agreed to do something together to recognise this is a world problem. What specific action will result from this remains to be seen, but it is likely to result in some costing in of CO2 emissions into transport, power generation and other goods and services.

Certain US senate members have vowed to overturn it, others to defend it while Bill Clinton has attempted to point out that the US cries economic disaster at every environmental descision.

It is sobering to note that the peat bog fires following the forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo are likely to emit as much CO2 over the coming season as the whole of Western Europe.

The following articles consider the isssues at the Conference.

5 Dec 97 KYOTO - The European Union and the United States traded barbs about how to cope with global warming yesterday, the first day of a United Nations conference negotiating how to reduce greenhouse gases. Under fire for not doing enough as the world's biggest producer of such gases and insisting poor nations must share the burden, the US singled out the European Union's ambitious plans to cut gases as a matter of "strong concern." In what was shaping up as a new transatlantic row, US Assistant Secretary of State Melinda Kimble icily dissected an EU position that has won it diplomatic and environmental points for offering far greater cuts than Washington. "We continue to have strong concerns about the proposed European Union 'bubble'," she told delegates from 160 nations. Under the EU "bubble" plan, the bloc as a whole, rather than individual countries, would cut emissions 15 per cent from 1990 levels by 2010, compared with a US offer to stabilise emissions at 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. She said the EU plan needed further explanation and justification in five areas, from what happens if more nations join the bloc to how to enforce compliance. An EU spokesman, Jorgen Henningsen, director for the environment and natural resources, shot back that Washington,seemed perturbed by the EU's ambitions for the environment. "If the strong concems ... are the fact that the EU position is uncomfortably ambitious for the US, then I would say we have a comparable concern that the US position is uncomfortably unambitious from our point of view," Mr Henningsen said. Conference president Hiroshi Oki, Japan's Environment Minister, said climate change was one of the most serious environmental issues the world had encountered. 'Only a fully worldwide strategy can effectively address the problem of climate change," Mr Oki said in an opening speech. "Projected changes in climate will result in significant, often adverse, impacts on many ecological systems and socio-economic sectors. Developing countries and small island countries are especially vulnerable to climate change."

Forecasts of effects include the spread of deserts, a rise in tropical diseases such as malaria and low- lying island states disappearing under the ocean as water levels rise from the heating of polar ice caps. At talks over the next 10 days, delegates will try to settle on a plan to cut gases such as carbon dioxide, produced from buming oil, coal and other fossil ftiels. The Third Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP3) will hold official-level talks until next Monday when ministers, including possibly the US Vice-President, Al Gore, take over the final negotiations. The conference opened in Kyoto, the ancient Japanese capital, with the world badly split on how to stop the earth heating up. In a sign of fissures, discussion has already started on how to word a fallback position if the meeting does not agree on a binding protocol by the time it ends on December 10. Debates raged over what gases to cut, whether to choose a target year and the role of developing nations. I

Host Japan has singled out compromise by the US as a key to a successful outcome. 'The US is the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases, as well as the greatest economy. "It is quite necessary that the world community see that the US agrees," Mr Oki told reporters. As well as cautioning against burdensome economic cuts, the US wants commitments by poor nations such as China and India to cut emissions, a plan they flatly oppose. The US Senate has passed a unanimous resolution asking President Bill Clinton not to sign any agreement that does not contain emission-cut commitments by developing countries.


The US backs away from the greenhouse gas fight - and asks developing nations to shoulder more of the burden.

NEW DELHI - If rich nations slashed energy consumption, they might have to go easy on refrigerators, cars, air-conditioners, washing machines and televisions. If poor nations did the same, hundreds of millions of people might have to live without even electric lightbulbs. Expect more compelling arguments like that this week as the developing world comes under pressure to make commitments on reducing emissions of gases which cause global warming. Since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, the world's wealthy states have agreed to shoulder the burden of fighting global warming while the others concentrate on economic development. But Washington has set the scene for heated debate when some 160 nations gather in Kyoto, Japan, today to formulate targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. It has threatened not to accept binding obligations without meaningful participation from "key developing countries." With the United States by far the worst offender on greenhouse gases - responsible for around a quarter of them worldwide - developing nations say such a stance is unfair and effectively excludes them from future economic growth. Many argue, for example, that nations with vast populations should contribute to such a global interest. China and India, with about 40 percent of the world's people and adding tens of millions to the total every year, are a case in point. But researchers say that while the US population grows by only three million a year, it is effectively adding 120 million in developing - world terms because US per-capita consumption of energy is 40 times higher. Developing nations will also use the "polluter pays principle" argument in Kyoto, pointing out that even though the rich nations may agree to cut their emissions to or below 1990 levels by around 2010, much darnage has already been done. British Deputy Prime Minister and Environment Minister John Prescott said earlier this month that no one was trying to stand in the way of industrialisation in the developing world. He said the poorer nations must take steps to prevent climate change, but rich nations had to show the way. "I'm not advocating a-kind of economic colonialism," he said. "Things can be done, but the example has to be set by developed countries." Even if the developing nations do not come on board at Kyoto, there are other pressures on them to act. A recent report by the Working Group on Public Health and Fossil-Fuel Combustion, made up of health officials, academics and climate and pollution experts said that reducing greenhouse gases could save eight million lives worldwide by 2020. - REUTERS

Island Nations Lose Faith in Kyoto Summit December 1997

KYOTO - Back in her Pacific atoll home, she says people put their trust in "God the Almighty." But in Kyoto, in the hardball world of high-stakes diplomacy, Tererei Abete has to put her faith in people. And her faith is fading. "All we can do is plead," says the environmental official from remote Kiribati, a delegate to the historic Kyoto climate treaty conference. For some round the world, the meaning of global warming remains unpredictable, even inconsequential. But for low-lying island states, it represents something both fateful and sure: If the sea rises as predicted, it will wipe out homes, and maybe even homelands.

Those with the most to lose from global warming have the least influence on the debate at international level.

Through the 1990s as incrasing evidence of impending climate change, island nations have mobilised to implore industrial powers to scale back emissions of carbon dioxide and the other gases

Their long diplomatic road ends here next week when 150 nations are expected to sign a new global warming agreement after 10 days of negotiatians. It is already clear the accors will fall far short of what the islanders demanded - 20 per cent cuts below countries' 1990 , emissions levels. 'The signs are it's not going to be good for the islands,' conceded Tuiloma Slade, a Samoan diplomat and spokesman for the 42-nation Alliance of Small Island States. A 1995 report by an authoritative United Nations-organised scientific panel projected that average global temperatures may rise as much as 14 degrees by 2100 if emissions continue to increase unabated. That could produce sea-level rises: of up to 90cm because of glacier melt and heat expansion of the oceans. AIthough scientists are far from sure, out in the islands, residents are convinced it is already happening. In parts of the Pacific and Indian oceans, islanders report what they say are unusually high tides and sea gurges. In the mid- Pacific's Federafed States of Micronesia, the Government says people may have to abandon one small atoll because of encroaching seas. Tererei Abete said similar episodes are troubling Kiribati, a sprinkling of South Pacific atolls. "The people themselves believe in God the Almighty, that they wotfldn't face such a scenario," she said. "But now there's erosion, and people displaced from the coastline. They're coming to us to know whether this issue they hear about is coming to pass.

In a new United Nations report scientists say Kiribati is especially vulnerable to sea-level rise along with the Bahamas and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and the Marshall Islands

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin- istration has begun systematic surveys in some island states to better gauge changes in sea levels. Rising seas are not the only threat, however. Global warming would also touch off more violent weather worldwide. In the Caribbean, a string of devastating hurricanes in recent ears has led some insurance companies to withdraw coverage islands. Kyoto delegate Eric Nurse, a scientist from Barbados, blames the oil states and energy companies for the conferences expected failure to order deep cuts in emissions. "For the common good, we need to reduce the overriding importance of special interest gropps," he said. The recent United Nations report concludes that in some island nations "migration and resettlement outside national boundaries may have to be considered." It is a prospect that is preoccupying island leaders. . "When our President speaks in Kyoto, you will hear him say he doesn't want to go back home and tell the people to start packing," said the Marshall Islands diplomat Laurence Edwards. 'We are scared, really and truly." REUTERS

Summit Pressure Tells on US 10-12-97

KYOTO - The United States last night bowed to demands that it do more to stop global wanning with an offer to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the next 15 years. It is the first time the US has offered to cut rather than freeze, emissions and it set off a hectic new round of talks at the United Nations global warming conference in Kyoto. Most of the activity involved environment ministers of the EU which has proposed cuts of 15% from 1990 levels by 2010. Some EU members wanted to stick to the 15 percent figure, while others were prepared to give ground in the interest of an agreement. Without fanfare but plenty of drama, the US offered cuts on the main three greenhouse gases from 1990 levels and secondary gas cuts from 1995. The cuts were put at more than 2 per cent, a figure likely to set off a major political fight in the United States where many fear too dramatic'a reduction could harm the economy. In a sign of the sensitivity of the issue, the first hint was leaked to reporters by Danish Envirortment Minister Svend Auken rather than announced by US officials in Kyoto. His comments set off a scramble to explain the remarks. A US official lashed out at the comments, saying the remarks were not an accurate account of the proposal, and that a 2 per cent reduction was in fact "an understatement." 'We have been discussing more than that,' the official told reporters. Frustrated by lack of progress the meeting's chairman, Raul Estrada, yesterday an ultimatum to rich countries to either present a plan to fight global warming or accept his. "The highest hopes are not going to be satisfied. We should rather go for a modest 'achievement' The biggest differences were between the US, the woirld's biggest polluter, and ihe EU. Spurred on by a Asit to the conference on Monday by US Vice President Al Gore, US officials said they were ' leaving aside for the time being all efforts except a search for a numerical reduction figure before the closing session today. Mr Gore announced that he had given US negotiators more flexibility to find an agreement. At the end of his 19-hour visit, he said he believed his discussions with a host of delegations had set off momentum toward an accord. An official close to the negotiations said discussions on reduction targets were circling between 3 per cent and 7 per cent below 1990 levels. Deviations were expected for Iceland, which is expecting a 40 per cent rise in emissions due mainly to construction of a new alundrdum smelting complex, and for Australia, the world's largest coal exporter, which has shunned any discussion of an emissions reduction. Greenpeace called the new US proposal "unacceptably weak." -REUTERS