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A Weather Eye on...

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

Weather Eye this issue presents a number of comments heard, around and about, in the aftermath of the Third Conference of the Parties to the Climate Convention held in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997.

The Kyoto Protocol has stimulated a diverse range of responses.

Greenpeace International commented that the agreement would not lead to any real reductions on 1990 level emissions of greenhouse gases and failure to come up with a significant reduction in Kyoto has merely delayed the inevitable move away from coal and oil, but at a very high price.

Concluding that the agreement “is not good enough for the future,” Ritt Bjerregaard, European Union Environment Commissioner, continued, “I think we should all be happy that we got the Americans on board.” She praised Japan for agreeing to cut 1990 level emissions by six per cent but said that Russia showed a lack of ambition given its lower post-Soviet era emissions and criticized Australia for its hard-line position.

Hailing the international pact on global warming and calling it a major step toward limiting growth in greenhouse gas emissions, Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, said “it shows true political leadership.”

“There is no way the United States Senate will support the ratification of this terribly flawed UN treaty... It lets developing nations that will become the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, nations such as China, Mexico, India, Brazil, South Korea and 130 other nations, completely off the hook.”

US Republican Senator, Chuck Hagel

“I sat behind them [the US fossil-fuel lobby group, the Global Climate Coalition] in Kyoto as they watched those final hours on a TV screen, and I saw their sly little smiles as the chairman, finding ‘no consensus,’ threw out proposed paragraphs setting terms for developing countries to agree future targets for their emissions of greenhouse gases... History will probably pass by the Global Climate Coalition. American companies will soon realize that there is money to be made from trading in carbon pollution permits and introducing cleaner technologies. Some of its members, such as Shell, already see which way the wind is blowing.”

Fred Pearce, journalist, New Scientist

“The question is to what extent we are ready to set a lead, to set an example to the United States, to go unilateral. My determination is that we should go that way.”

Pablo Benavides, Head of the European Commission’s Energy Directorate

“All Americans can and should be proud of the role that our country played in leading the world to finish this agreement. And we would not have reached this critical moment... if it had not been for the vision and tenacity of President Clinton... We still have a lot of hard work ahead of us... We still have to press for meaningful participation by key developing nations.”

Al Gore, US Vice President

“The stunning result at Kyoto for Australia secures the future of our coal industry and congratulations are owed to our negotiators for never losing sight of our national interest... The Australian coup notwithstanding, it is still the case that this treaty is in no way justified either by the physical climatic evidence surrounding greenhouse gases or by the economic damage which it would do to other economies such as the US and Japan. It is to be hoped therefore that the US Senate, which is to consider treaty ratification, adopts a clearer view of America’s own national interests than did their delegation at Kyoto led by Vice President Al Gore.”

John Daly, Consultant

Editorial note: A previous version of this page described John Daly as a Consultant to the Australian Coal Association. This was incorrect and we apologise for any embarrassment this has caused.

“This target is going to be quite tough, and I am not sure the Trade Ministry has a good idea how to accomplish it domestically at this point in time... Emissions trading and joint implementation will really be the key for us.”

Ken Koyama, Institute of Energy Economics, Japan

“China remains firmly opposed to ‘new obligations for developing nations’ which would require a cut in emissions of greenhouse gases... China is merely a ‘victim’ suffering from the excesses of the industrialized elite. Beijing will refuse to limit emissions until it has reached the level of a ‘moderately developed country.’”

Tang Guoqiang, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman

“We are deeply satisfied with the Protocol, which calls for a 5.2 per cent reduction... of emissions from developed countries... You have to recognize that one country, whose President announced a zero reduction target six weeks ago, has now moved to 7 per cent... This agreement will have a real impact on the problem of greenhouse gas emissions... Today should be remembered as the Day of the Atmosphere.”

Raul Estrada-Oyuela, Chairman of the Committee of the Whole

“It is weak and sickly, but it lives; it will be insufficient to slow down global warming, but it is nevertheless an historic watershed. There are major loopholes in the agreement and several vital questions remain unanswered... some rich countries will actually be able to increase pollution. Most disgraceful among these is Australia.
“Through its intransigent, self-serving and short-sighted negotiating position, Australia managed to gain permission from the other countries to increase its emissions by 8 per cent, even though it is already the world’s second-highest per capita polluter...
“Bankrolled by some of the world’s biggest car, oil and coal companies, the Global Climate Coalition’s mission was to wreck the negotiations and prevent any agreement. Given the awesome combined political and economic influence wielded by firms such as Exxon, Mobil, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Texaco and Shell, it is remarkable that there was any agreement at all.”

Tony Juniper, Friends of the Earth UK

“What happened is a disgrace... the Administration sold every American worker down the river, and it is time for our union and industry to begin looking at supporting candidates who will stand up not only for coal miners, but for every last worker in this country.”

Cecil Roberts, UMWA President

“We demand that the European Union, independent of the Kyoto outcome, implement the goal of a 15 per cent reduction on carbon dioxide output.”

Michael Mueller, Environment spokesperson for Germany’s Social Democrat party

“[With the help of the Kyoto agreement] the era of the gas powered internal combustion engine is coming to an end.”

Scott Sklar, Executive Director, Solar Energy Industries Association

“Kyoto represents a splendid result... It is an outcome that will protect tens of thousands of Australia jobs.”

John Howard, Australian Prime Minister

“The Kyoto Protocol provides for real and significant greenhouse gas reductions... The key now is to put into place effective national policies to influence the behaviour of industry and consumers. We must also ensure that each country makes the bulk of its reductions through its domestic energy, industry, and transport sectors, and not abroad via the international emissions trading system and other flexibility provisions.”

Michael Zammit Cutajar, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

“We shouldn’t be blinded by the fact that the Kyoto Protocol breaks important new ground in the international climate treaty process. The gulf between what science tells us is needed and the Kyoto targets is huge. Science magazine recently quoted a top scientist as saying we’ll need about thirty Kyoto’s worth of reductions to stabilize the climate.”

Rhys Roth, Atmosphere Alliance

“Climate change will not be solved by the industrialized world alone... We must create incentives to mobilize the flow of finance and cleaner technology into rapidly growing areas of the world... We stand ready to support vigorous and effective implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.”

Robert Priddle, Executive Director, International Energy Agency

“Developing countries have said that they will agree to targets once industrial countries demonstrate their commitment through real action. In fact, many developing nations have already done far more than the US. China, for example, has cut fossil fuel subsidies from 50% to almost zero. Europe and the US still subsidize fossil fuels to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.”

Rhys Roth, Atmosphere Alliance

“The final agreement is approximately 30 per cent worse for the US economy than President Clinton’s original proposal. The US has not had to deal with an adverse economic impact of this magnitude since the Depression.”

Mary Novak, Senior Vice President, WEFA

“The dirty boys did well in Kyoto... A glance down the list of countries with the highest per capita emissions of carbon dioxide reveals that 10 of the top 20 emitters in 1995 have not been asked to accept targets... Kyoto was a big step forward in tackling global warming. But, with the wealthy, forceful nations extracting huge concessions from exhausted delegates, it left serious questions about the equitable application of its rules.”

Fred Pearce, journalist, New Scientist

On the Web

The climate negotiations


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