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[greenyes] Impact of Bush Policy on Global Warming Action
     "Kevin Fay, executive director of the International Climate Change 
Partnership, which is composed of large, multinational companies with 
voluntary reduction programs, predicts that the U.S. withdrawal from the 
protocol is apt to bring talks about reductions in the second phase to a 
screeching halt."

Environmental Science & Technology Online News

January 15, 2005
Vol. 39, Iss. 2

Policy News -
January 26, 2005
A fresh look at curbing greenhouse gases
With the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change officially going into force this 
month, the battle among countries to bring the protocol to life is now over. 
But those gunning for a slowdown in worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases 
(GHGs) have a new challenge: Countries that have ratified the agreement now 
face the daunting task of charting a course to stabilize emissions beyond 
2012, when the protocol expires.
"I think arriving at effective approaches to take us beyond Kyoto will be 
far more challenging than bringing Kyoto to life," says Elliot Diringer of 
the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, an independent think tank that 
considers new approaches to protecting the climate and sustaining economic 
Robert Bradley attended an international climate change meeting last 
December in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as an observer with the independent 
think tank World Resources Institute (WRI). He says that two big issues 
still hang over the climate change effort: what can be done to bring the 
United States back into discussions on mandatory reductions, and how 
delegates can engage developing counties, both those with growing economies 
and those that are the least developed.
The two issues are very closely tied together. When President Bush pulled 
the United States out of the protocol talks in 2001, saying that the 
reduction commitments would harm the U.S. economy, even behind-the-scenes 
talks slowed on the vexing question of how to proceed after 2012, says 
environmentalist Jeff Fiedler of the Natural Resources Defense Council. 
Ratification by the Russian government last November was expected to 
reinvigorate international discussions on this topic, Fiedler adds.
But when the representatives from 167 governments met December 6-17, 2004, 
in Buenos Aires for climate change talks, the protocol was not yet in 
effect, Bradley says. They met as the Conference of Parties (COP 10) to the 
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The protocol is an amendment to the UNFCCC, the international agreement 
signed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that pledges 
signatory countries to stabilize GHG concentrations at levels that would 
prevent "dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." 
Unlike the protocol, UNFCCC does not include emissions limits or 
market-based mechanisms. The protocol, agreed upon in 1997, requires 
developed countries to reduce their GHG emissions by an average of 5.2% 
below 1990 levels.It also requires that countries begin discussing this year 
what they will do after the protocol expires. Yet, at COP 10 many 
governments were reluctant to begin talks aimed at new reduction goals, says 
Bradley, making it "largely a frustrating COP" for Kyoto supporters.
Harlan Watson, the senior climate negotiator at the U.S. Department of State 
and the head of the U.S. delegation to COP 10, instead reiterated Bush's 
2001 climate change statement that it would be premature to discuss a 
post-2012 policy. A 2012 review of U.S. emissions would determine whether 
any other actions should be taken to reduce GHG growth, Watson told 
Many in the U.S. energy and business communities support Watson and believe, 
as Bush does, that the protocol will slow growth. During COP 10, officials 
from India, China, and oil-producing Saudi Arabia backed Watson's position, 
which he expressed as a signatory to the UNFCCC. Watson's position was 
eventually accepted.
For protocol adherents, "the reality is that the news is not good," Bradley 
says. "The best we could get was [that] we could have talks about talks." 
During the final hours of the last day of COP 10, participants agreed to a 
seminar in May that is described as "an informal exchange of information" by 
government representatives only. The agenda is to discuss steps that 
governments are taking to carry out their commitments under Kyoto and ways 
they can "continue to develop" climate-related actions. "This seminar does 
not open any negotiations leading to new commitments," the UNFCCC document 
The diplomatic language lets all sides claim a victory, observers say. 
Participants can float ideas for next steps, which could be brought up again 
in subsequent meetings. "It is really a hair-splitting difference," Bradley 
adds, "and is indicative of where we are in the process." But for EU 
countries, where the public doesn't support abandoning Kyoto, other nations 
that have taken steps to reduce GHG emissions, and those least developed 
countries, anything that keeps the process moving forward can be seen as a 
Kevin Fay, executive director of the International Climate Change 
Partnership, which is composed of large, multinational companies with 
voluntary reduction programs, predicts that the U.S. withdrawal from the 
protocol is apt to bring talks about reductions in the second phase to a 
screeching halt. Several officials from industrialized and developing 
nations said they won't proceed post-2012 without the United States, says 
Fay, who also attended COP 10. "Kyoto without the U.S. and developing 
countries after 2012 is not very viable."
Others agree. "It would be hard for countries that are moving forward with 
their Kyoto commitments, such as the EU and Japan, to move even further 
beginning in 2012 without the U.S.," says Dan Bodansky, former climate 
change coordinator at the U.S. Department of State and a senior U.S. 
negotiator from 1999 to 2001, now at the University of Georgia School of 
Things aren't too likely to be affected by the lack of U.S. participation in 
the protocol now, but in five or six years, there is bound to be more 
pressure on the U.S. to come back to the climate change negotiations, 
Bodansky says. "Most countries want the U.S. to re-engage more generally," 
he adds.
"I think there can be progress [after 2012] without the U.S., but progress 
might be faster with the U.S. on board," says Christopher Flavin, president 
of the Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization. China, 
for example, "is ready to play ball on this," he says, "but they are 
reluctant to do so without U.S. leadership." The Chinese are investing in 
energy efficiency projects and renewable energy sources. Because of their 
rapidly growing population and expanding economy, the Chinese see benefits 
in shifting from a carbon-based energy system toward one that is more 
sustainable, Flavin says.
In light of the re-election of Bush last November, environmental groups and 
other nongovernmental organizations urged the parties at COP 10 to forge 
ahead with discussions about the next steps without U.S. participation, 
hoping to reach agreements on even more progressive solutions. 
Industrialized nations, in particular the United Kingdom, Canada, and Japan, 
instead urged the group to keep the United States involved in these talks, 
no matter what.
"With European industry worried about the competitiveness impacts of Kyoto's 
emission targets, EU governments want to show they are engaging other 
countries in discussions to broaden and extend commitments post-2012," says 
With at least one meeting set for this year to discuss progress, many 
experts predict that when talks begin on the post-Kyoto commitments, they 
won't involve higher emission reduction targets. "You will need something 
different than Kyoto to move to the next stage, because you need to draw 
different parties in," says Diringer.
Peter Anderson, President
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address

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