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Weather Eye, Tiempo's roving reporter, catches up with the climate negotiations and exposes dirty tricks and other questionable dealings.

News from Bonn...

Representatives from over 150 countries met in Bonn, Germany, in June 1998 for meetings of the Subsidiary Bodies of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to discuss how the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol could be implemented.

In preparation for the Fourth Conference of the Parties (COP4) in November 1998, a priority was to “finalize the rules of the game” with regard to emissions trading, the clean development mechanism and joint implementation. These “flexible” mechanisms are intended to cut the cost of emissions reductions for the industrialized nations, though they are the subject of considerable debate.

Little was resolved at the Bonn meeting on this front. Indeed, “a loss of momentum” was the considered verdict with a compilation of proposals from various parties the only concrete outcome.

Two weeks of discussions did little to bridge the gaps evident in Kyoto last year and may well have widened differences between the United States and the European Union. Whether or not developing nations should accept formal emissions targets remains a critical issue, with the United States focused on persuading these nations to take on explicit commitments.

After the meeting, British environment minister Michael Meacher warned that there was no way developing countries would contribute to combating global warming if the United States failed to cut domestic emissions. “I think the Americans are acting against their own best interests,” he said, stressing the need for global cooperation. “Unless [they] are seen to be taking action in their own back yard, I don’t believe that the developing nations are going to be convinced.”

Argentina, host to COP4 to be held in Buenos Aires, is seriously considering taking on voluntary commitments and argued for the inclusion of this concept in the Kyoto Protocol. The proposal to put the issue on the agenda for COP4 was firmly rejected at the Bonn meeting.

Lest the impression be given that nothing was achieved, it should be said that agreement was reached regarding, amongst other things, education and training, methodological issues, cooperation with other relevant international organizations, national communications, the financial mechanism and the second review of the adequacy of the climate treaty commitments (due later this year).

The discussion of the review of commitments left some spectators puzzled. The G-77 group with China emphasized the importance of the review despite that fact that the United States, for example, sees the exercise as a means of exerting pressure on these nations to take on emissions targets themselves.

Following the Bonn meeting, the Japanese government has announced that ministerial-level officials from major industrialized and developing nations would hold informal talks in Tokyo in September to see if common ground could be found before COP4.

With negotiations stalled over the emissions trading scheme, the United States has since broken with its previous position and, post-Bonn, is advocating a joint approach, such as adopted by the European Union. Under the new proposal, industrialized countries on the Pacific Rim would combine to meet reductions targets, effectively implementing an internal emissions trading system of their own.

Ratifying Kyoto...

The Clinton Administration will not send the Kyoto Protocol to the United States Senate this year as rejection is the likely outcome. Meanwhile, opposition is so strong in the US Congress that funding is being slashed for a range of climate-related activities.

Programmes in energy efficiency and renewables, part of Clinton’s climate initiative, have been cut. In withholding funds, the Senate Appropriations Committee said that it was not convinced of the “existence, extent, or effects of global climate change.” The proposals to cut emissions agreed in Kyoto were “inappropriate.”

A bill before Congress would ban education and information seminars on climate change or any other spending in “anticipation” of the protocol being ratified. “The bill would stifle any informed debate,” said Carol Browner of the Environmental Protection Agency. “I want to keep the treaty from being implemented — front door or back door,” said Congressman Joe Knollenberg, an author of the proposed constraints.

© 1998 Lawrence Moore


The reliability of a petition urging the United States to reject the Kyoto Protocol has been questioned with fake signatures submitted to test the signature selection process.

The petition, organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine with the Marshall Institute, contained the signature of 15,000 scientists. Released in April 1998, the list of signatories was found to contain the names of fictional television characters such as the lawyer Perry Mason and a member of the Spice Girls pop group.

The spurious names were submitted by the National Environmental Trust to test the selection process. In response, the petition’s organizers argued that a few bogus signatures should not detract from the overall impact.

The publication format of the petition was also criticized as the document was given the appearance of a reprint from the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Academy later publicly disassociated itself from the petition which runs counter to the institution’s stated position on climate change.

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