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E-M:/ CNN's Kyoto, Japan Update



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Enviro-Mich message from Mike Boyce <birder@voyager.net>
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I've posted this for the bennifit of Enviro Mich subscribers who have
been following and working for reduced greenhouse gas emmisions.  My
apology for its length.
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Negotiators discuss ‘differentiated’ emissions cuts

Gore: America ‘prepared to walk away’ from bad treaty

December 2, 1997
Web posted at: 6:30 a.m. EST (1130 GMT) 
KYOTO, Japan (CNN)

· Negotiators from 150 nations were working Tuesday toward agreement as
to whether countries should be assigned differing levels of mandatory
cutbacks in "greenhouse" gas emissions. 

The discussions took center stage at the Kyoto climate conference, a day
after the United States changed its position on how to set target levels
for industrial emissions—a move that pleased Japan and dismayed European
nations. 

On Monday, U.S. delegate Melinda Kimble announced the United States
would consider "differentiation"—setting different target levels for
different countries—instead of a uniform rate among the 34 affected
nations.
 
"In the interest of moving our negotiations forward, and seeking to be
as flexible as possible ... we are prepared to consider the possibility
of limited, carefully bounded differentiation," Kimble said.
 
Also Monday, U.S. President Bill Clinton directed Vice President Al Gore
to attend negotiations in Kyoto. Gore said America was "prepared to walk
away" from a bad treaty. 
The Kyoto conference was convened to strengthen the 1992 Climate Change
Treaty by setting legally binding targets for reducing industrial
nations’ emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse" gases linked
to global warming.
 
If it succeeds, it will set the energy course for much of the world for
decades to come, helping change what we drive, how we produce
electricity, even what we feed our cattle. 
The more than 2,000 delegates at the conference must reconcile an array
of differing positions on a long list of complex issues, chief among
them the size of emissions reductions.
 
Reaction to U.S. shift varies -

Washington came to the conference with the most conservative plan on the
table. 
Under pressure from U.S. business leaders, the Clinton administration
proposed a modest schedule of cutbacks. U.S.  coal, oil and other
industries say energy restraints would cost hundreds of thousands of
American jobs.
 
While some governments favor reducing the industrial world’s emissions
by as much as 20 percent below 1990 levels as early as 2005, U.S.
President Bill Clinton proposed cutbacks only to, not below, 1990
levels, and only as of 2012.
 
Clinton proposes accomplishing this in the United States largely through
fiscal incentives for energy-saving technology, and by establishing a
system for trading emissions "permits" among companies and countries.
 
The Japanese delegation quickly expressed its satisfaction with the
United States’ position on differentiation. It has favored setting a
range of target levels geared not to a country’s gross emissions but,
for example, to per-capita emissions, a measure that might favor an
energy-efficient country like Japan.
 
But the European Union, which proposes a flat reduction of 15 percent
among industrial countries, saw a possible ploy.
 
Delegate Pierre Gramegna of Luxembourg called the American shift toward
differentiation "flexibility in the wrong direction. ... We get the
impression the game is to find ever more loopholes." He is the European
Union delegation head since his country now holds the EU presidency.
 
The Europeans fear the United States is maneuvering for a deal whereby
it would have to reduce emissions less than Europe would. They noted
that Kimble in her opening remarks also drew attention to a new Russian
plan to accept essentially whatever targets that governments set for
themselves.
 
U.S. negotiator Mark Hambley told reporters the United States has not
settled on criteria for establishing differing targets. It "demands
further exploration," he said. 
Environmentalists were wary of the U.S. shift.
 
"It’s a significant development in the negotiations," said Alden Meyer
of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an American group.  Now, he said,
all depends "on where the other shoe drops"—that is, how U.S.
negotiators define differentiation.
 
John Mate of Greenpeace described the U.S. position as "unacceptable,
outrageous." 
Bursting Europe’s bubble?

Kimble also expressed "strong concerns
about the proposed EU ‘bubble.’"
 
Under the EU "bubble" plan, the bloc as a whole, rather than individual
countries, would cut emissions by 15 percent from 1990 levels by 2010.
 
Kimble said the EU plan needed further explanation in five areas,
including what happens if more nations join the bloc.
 
She later told reporters that by allowing some EU members to even
increase their emissions, balancing them with cuts by others, there was
not a "level playing field." 
She said that as there was an economic cost to nations in cutting
emissions, the United States could be at a trading disadvantage.
 
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 concerns ... are the fact that the EU position is
uncomfortably ambitious for the U.S., then I would say we have a
comparable concern that the U.S. position is uncomfortably unambitious
from our point of view," Henningsen said.
 
Gore to attend conference -

Clinton raised the stakes in the global warming talks Monday by
announcing his vice president would attend the negotiations. Gore, the
Clinton administration’s top voice on environmental issues, had put off
the decision until the last minute.
 
Gore plans to address the 1,500 delegates during a one-day visit next
week. But negotiations would be left to Undersecretary of State Stuart
E. Eizenstat, who heads the U.S. delegation.
 
Gore was expected to arrive next Monday for the address, perhaps meeting
with one or two delegations.
 
Gore has long been considering whether to attend the talks. The decision
puts him in the awkward political position of defending a U.S.
environmental policy that is considered weak by Europeans and Japan.
 
"This is an issue he has worked long and hard on and cares passionately
about," spokeswoman Ginny Terzano said. "He’s going out there to make a
case for the United States’ position."
 
Gore’s political advisers feared that sending the vice president to
Japan could backfire if the negotiations don’t yield tough new
restrictions on emissions. Environmental groups pushing for strict
limits are the core of Gore’s political base as he tries to succeed
Clinton in 2001.
 
In another development Monday, Canada became the last major industrial
country to announce its position on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The government said it will push for greenhouse gases to be reduced 3
percent from 1990 levels by the year 2010.  It set a target for the
stabilization of the release of greenhouse gases by 2007.
 
Merely to recommend, not to dictate -

Whatever the final target, the "Kyoto Protocol" is expected to merely
recommend, not dictate, how governments arrive there.  Negotiators from
150 countries are attending the conference.
 
Topping the list of measures probably would be conversion of power
plants from coal- and oil-burning to more climate-friendly natural gas,
and encouragement of new fuel-efficient technologies for automobiles.
But new policies likely would even reach down to the farm, where
improved feed could reduce methane, a byproduct of cattle’s digestive
process.
 
Carbon dioxide, methane and other gases, mostly products of burning
fossil fuels, allow sunlight through to Earth but trap the heat the
planet emits back toward space. 

In 1995, an authoritative international panel of scientists concluded
that the buildup of such gases in the atmosphere since the beginning of
the Industrial Revolution apparently was at least partly responsible for
a 1-degree rise in average global temperatures in the past century. 

The scientists predicted emissions continuing at current rates would
boost temperatures much more in the 21st century, disrupting climate in
potentially damaging ways and raising sea levels as glaciers melt and
oceans expand from warmth.
 
Eight rounds of preliminary talks since 1995 have led to the Kyoto
conference, which has also attracted 3,500 journalists and a like number
of environmentalists and members of other advocacy groups. 

Correspondent Tom Mintier, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed
to this report.


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