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E-M:/ reaction to climate change treaty

Enviro-Mich message from davemec@voyager.net (Dave Dempsey)

For Immediate Release          Contact: Vicki Levengood, National
Environmental Trust Michigan:
December 11, 1997                           517-333-5786
                                                      Mary Addison, NET
                                                       Dave Dempsey,

Kyoto: Climate Treaty Language Emerges In Final Moments

Michigan environmental leaders react to the historic agreement

The text of a treaty to slow global warming emerged in a final rush of
negotiating at the international talks in Kyoto, after the US and
developing countries broke a deadlock near dawn, meeting  halfway on a
system of tradable pollution permits. Talks went nine-and-a-half hours
overtime before yielding a treaty  agreement intended to reduce worldwide
greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 6% during a five-year period from
2008-2012, less a few
percentage points lost to a series of loopholes.

The United States would reduce emissions by 7%, and the European Union
by 8%. Environmentalist observers, bleary-eyed from monitoring 48 hours
of near-continuous negotiations, found both good news and bad in the
treaty. But the prevailing emotion was relief that a deal had finally
been reached.

"Today's agreement is a historic landmark in environmental protection:
binding targets for real reductions in the pollution that causes global
warming," said Philip E. Clapp, president of National Environmental
Trust. "It will be remembered as a central achievement of the
Clinton/Gore administration.

"At the same time, there are significant loopholes which must be closed
in the year of work ahead on the treaty before the next UN climate
meeting in Buenos Aires in November 1998."

Locally, Michigan Environmental Council Policy Director Dave Dempsey was
encouraged by the outcome of the negotiations. "A strong global warming
treaty will protect Michigan jobs in two ways," said Dempsey.   "First,
it will protect our agriculture and tourism industries from the disruption
caused by drought, heat, and other aspects of climate change. Second, it
will promote modernization by the auto industry and force our electric
utility industry to become more efficient.  This makes Michigan
more competitive at the same time it makes our air easier for kids and
the elderly to breathe."

Mary Addison, Michigan Director for the National Environmental Trust
called the treaty "groundbreaking."  "The fact remains, as little as two
weeks ago, people were saying that nothing would come of the Kyoto
negotiations," said Addison.  "With this treaty,  we have made
historic progress towards stemming global emissions of greenhouse

Dempsey noted that Michigan's coal-burning utilities emitted 68 million
tons of CO2 last year, according to the state Department of Environmental
Quality.   "The treaty
will have many important environmental benefits.  When we reduce the
pollution caused by coal-burning to meet treaty requirements, our power
plants will also reduce the soot that kills the elderly and sends our
kids to the hospital with breathing problems," said Dempsey.  "And it
will reduce the toxic mercury emissions from smokestacks that have
caused a statewide advisory for all 11,000 inland lakes in Michigan."

The treaty is supposed to be completed for signature in the period from
March 1998 through March 1999. However, US Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
predicted Wednesday that it might be years before the Senate votes on
ratifying it. Kerry noted that 14 other treaties are already pending
before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which has been there for years.
Meanwhile the fossil fuel industry-led Global Climate Coalition
threatened to renew economic scare tactics featured in a multi-million
industry ad campaign this fall, in a campaign to call on President
Clinton to reject the treaty from the start.

Mary Addison of NET Michigan acknowledges there is likely to be a long
ratification fight.  "The environmental community and the President and
Vice President will have
to take the case for ratification to the people who support the fight
against global warming, even if some in the Senate do not."

The emissions trading system that held up the talks for several hours
on  the final night would allow rich countries to meet their targets by
reducing greenhouse gas pollution anywhere in the world and not just at
home. Implementation apparently will be delayed by new compromise
language requiring more study by two UN expert panels of exactly how it
would work.

Members of the US delegation said they could live with that. They had
insisted on a trading system to help the US meet a much strengthened
target for reducing US greenhouse pollution, by 7% from 1990 levels by

As the deal on the emissions trading system emerged, one negotiator summed up
the delegates' consensus: "We need to study this new animal, and the
animal should not be let run around before we know him very well." One
US negotiator reminded the room in the closing hours of bargaining
that, "If we let this opportunity slip through our hands, we would not
soon be forgiven." As the talks ended, one delegate pronounced it,
"Negotiation by  exhaustion."

"This treaty is as much an investment in our kids and grandkids as a
college saving program," added Dempsey of the Michigan Environmental
Council.   "We owe it to them to hand on a world that is not jeopardized
by rapid climate change."


Dave Dempsey
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI  48912
(517) 487-9539
(517) 487-9541 (fax)

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