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Weather Eye

Tiempo's roving reporter, Weather Eye, comments on the issues of the day.

Weather Eye considers the latest state of the climate treaty negotiations as the Third Conference of the Parties (COP-3) in December 1997 draws closer. Published September 1997.

The seventh session of the Ad Hoc Group on the Berlin Mandate (AGBM-7), whose role is to strengthen the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) commitments, took place in Bonn, Germany, late July-early August 1997. Any chance of significant progress at the meeting was undermined by the fact that two of the major players, the United States and Japan, had yet to announce their proposals for an emissions reduction schedule, though the number of alternative proposals in the negotiating text was reduced.

Just prior to the meeting, US President Clinton launched a "climate change campaign" aimed at convincing Americans of the need to agree to a legally-binding timetable to limit greenhouse gas emissions. A public conference on the dangers of inaction is planned for October. It is believed that the US proposal for an emissions reduction schedule will be announced at that time.

The Japanese Environmental Agency has criticized the government in Tokyo for failing to "do enough" to curb carbon dioxide emissions. In September, the Japanese government, intent on taking a leadership role prior to hosting COP-3, proposed that the industrialized nations cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2010 (though arguments between ministries regarding this target continue).

At AGBM-7, the European Union continued to press for more meaningful reductions: 15 per cent by 2010. In this, it received little support either from other industrialized nations or the G-77/China grouping of developing nations. It is feared that the principle that no group position can be adopted if one member dissents is allowing minority interests to undermining the influence of the G-77 as a whole.

There does seem to be an emerging acceptance that the new protocol could and should cover multiple greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide. Similarly, the previously contentious issues of differentiated targets, depending on national circumstances, and emissions trading are now being discussed positively.

The Berlin Mandate states explicitly that there will be no emissions limitations for developing nations specified during the current phase of strengthening the convention. Nevertheless, some signs are emerging of a possible twin-track approach. The industrialized nations will continue to take primary responsibility for the global warming problem through a new protocol agreed at COP-3. As implementation progresses, developing country actions could be politically linked to, though formally separate from, the protocol, through involvement in the review process.

Following AGBM-7, Michael Zammit Cutajar, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, said that he was "concerned about the lack of progress. Time is shrinking as we approach Kyoto." There is one more full session of the AGBM, in October, before COP-3.

On the Web

Earth Negotiations Bulletin

Information Unit for Conventions

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

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