Albion Monitor /News
[Editor's note: See also "U.S. Stalling on Climate Protection, WWF Says" in this edition of the Monitor.]

Global Climate Talks Were "Disaster," Says Greenpeace

by Ramesh Jaura

(IPS) BONN -- Talks on a draft pact on global measures to halt worldwide climate change ended here on March 7 without an outright commitment to serious cuts in global emissions of greenhouse gases.

This, said Greenpeace International climate policy director Bill Hare, was a "disaster." But Michael Zammit Cutajar, executive secretary of the U.N. framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) told IPS that he was satisfied with the talks.

Considering that the "aims were modest," he said that he was satisfied with the outcome of the Bonn AGBM session. Delegates had focused on streamlining and merging some two dozen position papers submitted by governments and bagged as one 88-page framework compilation at the last AGBM meeting in December in Geneva.

Setting targets and deadlines has split the world's nations
Representatives of some 150 nations had convened in Bonn to draft a working text for a third and final ministerial level conference in Kyoto, Japan, where the UNFCCC framework pact is to be finalized and become binding.

That final accord should set targets and deadlines for the reduction of emissions of so-called greenhouse gases. The gases, carbon dioxide (CO2) chief among them, are blamed for global rises in average world temperatures, which if unchecked could trigger massive atmospheric changes and a devastating rise in world sea levels.

But setting these targets and deadlines has split the world's nations, who agreed the need for action in creating the UNFCCC at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 -- but have consistently failed to agree on specific measures.

Developed countries at the Earth Summit agreed to act to return their greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. But at the first post-Rio session of the treaty's conference of parties (COP1) in 1995 in Berlin, it was recognized that stronger measures were needed.

They established the ad hoc group on the Berlin mandate (AGBM) to negotiate new developed country commitments for the post-2000 period. The sixth session of this body in Bonn had set the stage for finalizing a new agreement over the coming months, said Zammit Cutajar.

Hare charged that governments are simply rearranging pieces of paper
While some sections of the document have indeed been shortened and restructured, the UNFCCC said, others have been revised by adding new ideas and paragraphs.

Zammit Cutajar said the parties to the convention have until April 1 to submit proposals for the negotiating text which must be distributed in the six official U.N. languages by June 1.

They will then be the subject of further talks in Bonn in August and October before the finalized draft goes to the Kyoto meet (COP3) in December.

Zammit Cutajar highlighted the European Union's challenge to other developed nations at the session to agree to a 15 percent cut on 1990 levels of emissions of a basket of greenhouse gas types by 2010.

The basket is based on a weighted total of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, assigned according to their calculated contribution to global warming over 100 years.

Despite earlier division within the 15-nation bloc, EU ministers agreed to adopt it as a common EU target, though winning the support of other industrialized powers for the same targets will be harder going.

The EU proposal sparked a renewed debate on the process of called differentiation. Some countries supported a common target for all developed country parties; others pleaded for variable targets between nations balanced between an agreed overall target.

Some governments -- notably EU members -- argued for internationally coordinated policies. Others said it would be more cost-efficient to allow each country to adopt the policies and measures best suited to its national circumstances.

The EU's own internal agreement has set just such variable targets to ensure a total 15 percent cut, and has already divided the responsibility for meeting two-thirds of this target figure between the bloc's members.

Thus, under this target setting, Portugal will actually be allowed to increase its emissions by 40 percent on 1990 figures, while Luxembourg must cut by 30 percent and Austria, Denmark and Germany by 25 percent by the year 2010.

But this partitioning must be accepted by the rest of the UNFCCC parties at Kyoto; if it is, the remaining third of the target will be allocated accordingly.

"This week's negotiations in Bonn were expected to get on with the job of agreeing cuts in greenhouse gases which have to be adopted in December at the Kyoto climate summit," said Hare, climate policy director of Greenpeace International.

Hare charged that governments are simply rearranging pieces of paper and that they did not agree to cut fossil fuel emissions, which is essential to prevent dangerous climate change.

"Behind the rhetoric, governments are clearly supporting the delaying tactics of these industries"
Greenpeace believes that agreements on critical cuts in carbon dioxide emissions are being blocked by oil, gas, coal and automobile industry lobbyists dogging the climate convention negotiations.

"Behind the rhetoric, governments are clearly supporting the delaying tactics of these industries," said Hare, who has followed the nine-year process since 1988 and the Toronto ministerial meet that first confirmed the need for global action.

That meet called for far tougher targets. In Toronto it was agreed that the world needed a 20 percent reduction by the year 2005, well over the EU's current proposal 15 percent cut by 2010 -- which is so far the most progressive yet proposed to the AGBM.

Hare said if there was to be any chance of success, governments had to come back with a real political commitment to act rather than talk. "The United States, Japan and the EU must come back to Bonn in July prepared to support the Alliance of Small Island States proposal to reduce emissions by 20 percent by 2005 from 1990 levels," he said.

However, AGBM chairman Raul Estrada-Oyuela took a different view. He said the Bonn meeting was not intended for negotiating but for redefining and consolidating similar proposals contained in the framework compilation of proposals to set out clear alternatives for negotiating at the next meet in Bonn.

This view was also shared by spokesman of the Group of 77 developing nations plus China, Professor Mark Mwandosa of Tanzania.

"Our objective here was in the first place to streamline the text so that an agreement can be achieved at the COP3 in Kyoto," he told IPS.

According to the UNFCCC, other issues on which various negotiating positions are reflected in the Bonn text include emissions trading between signatories, the joint implementation of emissions cuts, the use of multi-year emissions budgets in the timetable, the possible impact of developed country policies on developing-country economies, and the evolution of future joint commitment to further action.

A series of related subsidiary body meetings last week also took key decisions in the UNFCCC process. They concerned administrative and budget issues, technology transfer, methodological matters and the convention's financial mechanisms.

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Albion Monitor March 10, 1997 (

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