The Heat Is Online

178 Nations Pass Weakened Kyoto Pact Without U.S.

178 Nations Reach Climate Accord; U.S. Only Looks On

The New York Times, July 24, 2001

BONN, July 23 — With the Bush administration on the sidelines, the world's leading countries hammered out a compromise agreement today finishing a treaty that for the first time would formally require industrialized countries to cut emissions of gases linked to global warming.

The agreement, which was announced here today after three days of marathon bargaining, rescued the Kyoto Protocol, the preliminary accord framed in Japan in 1997, that was the first step toward requiring cuts in such gases. That agreement has been repudiated by President Bush, who has called it "fatally flawed," saying it places too much of the cleanup burden on industrial countries and would be too costly to the American economy.

Today, his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said in Rome, where the president met with the pope, "I don't believe that it is a surprise to anyone that the United States believes that this particular protocol is not in its interests, nor do we believe that it really addresses the problem of global climate change." She reiterated that the president had created a task force to come up with alternatives.

The agreement by 178 countries was largely the product of give and take involving Japan, Australia, Canada and the European Union. But Japan's role was crucial because it is the largest economy after the United States and its opposition would have killed any agreement.

Largely as a result of concessions to Japan, the product is a significantly softened version of the Kyoto accord, allowing industrial nations with the greatest emissions of greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, to achieve their cuts with greater flexibility. For example, Japan won a provision to receive credits for reducing the gases by protecting forests that absorb carbon dioxide.

Still, the agreement is a binding contract among nations — excluding the United States — under which 38 industrialized countries must reduce those emissions by 2012 or face tougher emissions goals. Those countries now account for close to half of the emissions. The agreement now moves to a complex ratification process that calls for approval from the biggest polluting countries, which can be achieved even with United States opposition.

Officials from the European Union exulted over the compromise. Olivier Deleuze, the energy and sustainability secretary of Belgium, said there were easily 10 things in the final texts that he could criticize. "But," he said, "I prefer an imperfect agreement that is living than a perfect agreement that doesn't exist."

The Kyoto accord calls for the 38 industrialized countries by 2012 to reduce their combined annual gas emissions to 5.2 percent below levels measured in 1990. It set a different, negotiated target for each, with Japan, for example, accepting a target of cutting gas emissions back to 6 percent below 1990 emissions. Those targets were included in the Kyoto agreement and were untouched by the compromise today.

Developing countries do not have to do anything to reduce emissions.

The biggest sticking point was how much to penalize countries that miss their targets. Japan held out for a fairly painless system. Europe wanted countries that missed targets in the first commitment period, from 2008 to 2012, to pledge to reduce more carbon dioxide in the next period, with the equivalent of penalties plus interest.

On that point, Europe got its way.

The talks also clarified the design of the first global system for buying and selling credits earned by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Such a system tends to focus investment in pollution cleanups where the job can be done effectively and cheaply.

In general, Japan was in the driver's seat. After Mr. Bush rejected the treaty, Japan became a pivotal player. It sought, and received, extra credits toward its emissions goals for protecting its forests.

Forest experts calculated that the credits for forests essentially would drop Japan's target from 6 percent below 1990 levels to just 2 percent below. Canada and Russia would gain large forest credits as well.

But climate scientists said that in most cases the forest credits were not as big a gift as they seemed, and that economic growth — if continued as projected — would put all the industrialized countries listed under the treaty 15 or 20 percent above their 1990 levels. So a drop even close to 1990 figures would be a big change, they said, essentially lessening the benefit of the forest credits.

Still, some participants grumbled about countries getting credit for gas reductions "by watching trees grow," as one environmentalist put it. The compromise was laced with of something for just about everyone.

The European Union pledged $410 million a year through the first years of the treaty to help developing countries adapt to climate change and build the technological ability to avoid adding to the problem.

That was something demanded by, among others, Saudi Arabia, among the group of developing countries that are not required to reduce their emissions.

The difficulties in moving ahead on the Kyoto Protocol far exceeded those surrounding other environmental treaties, experts said, because the treaty, by controlling carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, would limit something released by almost every act of daily living.

That this was an economic as well as environmental treaty was evident at every turn.

"This protocol is about the climate, but it is also about the interests of each country," explained Ali Al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister.

Indeed, he said, Saudi Arabia's interest lay not so much in curtailing gases, but in preventing economic disruption should the treaty lead the world to curtail its use of oil.

Much of the momentum appeared to be maintained personally by Jan Pronk, the indefatigable Dutch environment minister and chairman of the talks here. Mr. Pronk often locked himself in a room with clusters of delegates. By dawn today, dozens of delegates were sprawled asleep on every spare cushion and couch in the meeting rooms of the Maritim Hotel.

In the end, the diverse array of countries at the table, faced with the possibility of an embarrassing collapse of the entire treaty, overcame their differences.

The compromise caps a six-year struggle between a group of industries and countries that claimed mandatory emissions caps would harm economies, and environmental groups and other nations that saw such limits as the only way to stave off potentially disruptive climate shifts.

At the meeting, there were unusual combinations of interests, with companies that build nuclear power plants eager to jump into the climate fight because nuclear power produces electricity without emitting greenhouse gases. Japan, Canada, China and other countries supported credits toward emission targets by substituting nuclear power.

But the European Union, despite wide use of nuclear power in some large European countries, insisted there be no nuclear option in the agreement.

To some of the participants here, the achievement was a bit hollow given that the United States, which by some measurements accounts for about 25 percent of greenhouse gases, chose not to participate.

Others noted that, among them, the three dozen industrialized countries that supported the treaty language accounted for far more emissions than the United States.

Environmental campaigners said Europe had proved it could lead despite its sometimes fragmented appearance.

"There's really a new force on the world stage," said Philip Clapp, the president of the National Environmental Trust, a lobbying group based in Washington. "If the United States will not lead, Europe can and will."

Many of the negotiators from other countries held out hope that, eventually, the United States would rejoin the pact.

Chances of that happening in the short run are slim. During the session celebrating the accord, Paula Dobrianksy, the under secretary of state for global affairs, congratulated the parties to the protocol but reiterated a common theme of the Bush administration — that it was "not sound policy." She did not come to Bonn with any alternative ideas.

Japan's environment minister, Yoriko Kawaguchi, in a clear reference to the United States, said it was important to try to build a bridge between the Kyoto process and countries waiting on the sidelines.

"In order to achieve the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol, we need to have the widest possible participation of countries," Ms. Kawaguchi said. "We should try to encourage all our friends to join us in our common effort to address global warming."

 

 

Negotiators Reach Deal on Climate Treaty

The New York Times, July 23, 2001

BONN, Germany, July 23 -- The world's nations, minus the United States, accepted treaty rules that for the first time would require industrialized countries to cut emissions of waste gases linked to global warming.

The agreement, reached after four pressurized days of formal talks here, paves the way for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, which was conceived in 1995, negotiated in Japan two years later, signed by nearly 100 countries, including the United States, and rejected earlier this year by President Bush.

This morning, largely galvanized by the European Union, 178 countries consented to detailed language that moved the proposed treaty along the path from a sketchy plan for reducing the human impact on the atmosphere toward a binding environmental contract.

The development came after years of fighting over the treaty rules between blocs of countries, lobbyists, and environmentalists.

Officials from the European Union exulted over the compromise. Olivier Deleuze, the energy and sustainability secretary of Belgium, said there were easily 10 things in the final texts that he could criticize. "But," he said, "I prefer an imperfect agreement that is living than a perfect agreement that doesn't exist."

The difficulties far exceeded those surrounding other environmental treaties, experts said, because the treaty, by controlling carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, would limit something released by almost every act of modern daily living.

"This is as hard as it gets," said one member of the British delegation. "It involves everything: our energy, our mobility, our use of the land."

Compromises were reached on a set of issues that caused the last negotiating session, in The Hague last November, to end in an impasse between the Clinton administration and Europe.

"The rescue operation succeeded," said Margot Wallstrom, the environmental commissioner of the European Union. "This issue will be around for generations to come, but this is an incredibly important first step."

The biggest sticking point was how much bite to give the enforcement mechanisms for penalizing countries that fail to meet their targets. Japan held out for a fairly painless system. Europe wanted a system that would require countries that miss targets in the first commitment period, from 2008 to 2012, to add to the tonnage of carbon dioxide they eliminated in the next period, with the equivalent of penalties plus interest. Europe got its way.

The talks also clarified the design of the first global system for buying and selling credits earned by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Such a system tends to focus investment in pollution cleanups where the job can be done most effectively and cheaply.

Representatives of a bloc of more than 130 developing countries said they were pleased with the deal -- particularly with new commitments of more than $450 million a year from the industrialized countries to help them adapt to climate change and adopt technologies to avoid making the problem worse as their economies grow.

And the negotiators settled on what kinds of forest and farmland projects -- and how many -- could be used to soak up atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and stash away the carbon in wood and soil.

On this point, some environmental groups gently criticized Europe for allowing forested countries like Canada and Japan to gain large credits toward their emissions targets essentially by "watching trees grow," as one campaigner put it.

But the overwhelming sentiment of American, Japanese, and European environmental groups was that this was a historic agreement.

"It allows us to begin the long journey of confronting global warming, the most serious environmental threat of the 21st century," said Alden Meyer, a lobbyist for the Union of Concerned Scientists who has been involved in climate treaty talks for more than a decade.

As the talks ground on over the weekend and today, attempts by Japan and Saudi Arabia, among others, to seek new concessions or delays faltered.

Consensus emerged after a final push by Jan Pronk, the chairman of the talks, who essentially locked himself in a room with a cluster of negotiators.

By dawn dozens of delegates sprawled unconscious on every spare cushion and couch in the meeting rooms of the Maritim Hotel.

In the end, the diverse array of countries at the table, some grudgingly, overcame differences under strong pressure to avoid an embarrassing deadlock over the rules that could have been the undoing of the treaty itself.

The deal was sealed just before 11 a.m. with an auctioneer-fast crack of Mr. Pronk's gavel. With that stroke, he found some measure of retribution after presiding over the failed talks in the Hague.

The writing of the rules caps a six-year struggle between a group of industries and countries that claimed mandatory emissions caps would harm economies and environmental groups and other countries that saw required limits as the only way to stave off potentially disruptive climate shifts.

At the meeting, there were unusual intertwinings of interests, with companies that build nuclear power plants eager to jump into the climate fight because the technology produces electricity without greenhouse gases. Japan, Canada, China, and other countries supported getting credit toward emissions goals by substituting nuclear for conventional power.

But the European Union, despite its wide use of nuclear power, insisted there be no nuclear option in the global warming agreement.

Some industry lobbyists said they doubted the system for trading carbon credits could be set up in a way that avoided cheating or inaccuracy.

But other executives making the rounds in Bonn came from companies that had already established carbon trading systems in anticipation of eventual required limits.

Indeed, among the business officials at the meeting was Kedin Kilgore, who works for Natsource, a large American energy trading firm. His job title, he said, was "greenhouse gas broker."

To some of the participants and observers in the wearying talks here, the achievement was a bit soured given that the United States, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet, chose not to be a party to the proposed treaty.

But others noted that, between them, the three dozen industrialized countries that supported the treaty language accounted for far more emissions than the United States.

Environmental campaigners said Europe had proved it can lead despite its sometimes fragmented appearance.

"There's really a new force on the world stage," said Philip Clapp, the president of the National Environmental Trust, a lobbying group based in Washington. "If the United States will not lead, Europe can and will."

Many of the negotiators from other countries held out hope that, eventually, the United States would rejoin the pact.

Chances of that happening in the short run are slim. During the plenary session celebrating the accord, Paula Dobrianksy, the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, congratulated the parties to the protocol but reiterated a common theme of the Bush administration -- that it was "not sound policy."

Even before the Kyoto treaty was negotiated, the Senate warned in a 95 to 0 vote that it would not consent to any treaty that excused developing countries from obligatory cuts and could harm the economy by limiting gases released by burning fuels.

Mr. Bush embraces the same view, although he repeated his pledge to come up with an alternative and his commitment to stabilizing greenhouse gases, during the summit in Genoa.

In one of many floor statements made after the rules were adopted, Japan's environment minister, Yoriko Kawaguchi, in a clear reference to the United States, said it was important to try to build a bridge between the Kyoto process and countries waiting on the sidelines.

"In order to achieve the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol, we need to have the widest possible participation of countries," she said.. "We should try to encourage all our friends to join us in our common effort to address global warming."

After the formal session ended this afternoon, hundreds of officials began to prepare for a weeklong meeting to draft the fine print.

Many countries said that the completion of the rules meant they could take the pact home to start the ratification effort.

Formal adoption of the agreement is scheduled to take place in Marrakech at the end of October.

 

 

Deal reached in world climate talks

Marathon negotiations come to end

MSNBC, BONN, Germany, July 23 -- Aiming to keep the Kyoto climate pact on track despite an earlier U.S. withdrawal, negotiators from 178 nations on Monday agreed to terms for implementing and enforcing the treaty. Delegates and environmentalists urged President Bush to reconsider his decision, but the administration showed no signs of doing so

"Almost every single country stayed in the protocol," said the European Union’s negotiator, Olivier Deleuze. "There was one that said the Kyoto Protocol was flawed. Do you see the Kyoto Protocol flawed?"

Japan was the last major country to agree to a compromise put forward by the conference chairman on Saturday. Its objections had been over how to factor in nuclear power, which does not emit gases thought to be warming Earth, and over how to enforce sanctions against violators of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi welcomed the agreement and said he would work to bring the United States back into the Kyoto fold.

European envoys admitted the deal fell short of the tight enforcement rules they initially sought but they emphasized that it kept the pact alive.

"I prefer an imperfect agreement that is living to an imperfect agreement that doesn’t exist," Deleuze said.

Added British Environment Minister Michael Meacher: "It’s a brilliant day for the environment ... It’s a huge leap to have achieved a result on this very complex international negotiation. It’s a huge relief."

MORE CARBON ‘SINKS’

In another major concession to Japan, Russia and Canada, the European Union also agreed to let nations offset some of their obligations to reduce carbon dioxide by counting forests and farmlands, which absorb CO2.

Environmental groups said the heavy allowance for these carbon "sinks" effectively reduced the commitment in the Kyoto accord to cut emissions by 5.2 percent from their 1990 levels. The real reduction would be closer to 1.8 percent, the World Wildlife Fund calculated.

But the group said the accord was still worthwhile. "Overall, we see this as a strong architecture for the Kyoto Protocol that would start the world moving forward," said WWF climate director Jennifer Morgan.

Greenpeace agreed, with its climate expert Bill Hare arguing that "it shows that George Bush is totally isolated in the climate debate."

2002 AIMED FOR

The deal follows a week of negotiations that were capped by two overnight sessions Saturday and Sunday.

It now clears the way for nations to continue the process of ratifying the protocol, which delegates hope to achieve in 2002, the 10th anniversary of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The treaty must be ratified by 55 nations responsible for 55 percent of global green gas emissions to take force. Some 30 nations have ratified the pact to date.

Delegates at the U.N.-sponsored talks had feared that a second failure, following the collapse of a summit at The Hague last November, could have killed off the Kyoto accord. At the Hague, the United States, which was still working within Kyoto, had demanded greater flexibility in meeting emission reductions.

"We have finalized the rescue operation," said EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom. "We have rescued the Kyoto protocol. It is a major achievement because we live with this for many years to come."

The United States, for its part, did not budge in its opposition. President Bush, meeting with other world leaders in Genoa, Italy, over the weekend, reiterated his opposition to Kyoto, arguing it would harm the U.S. economy with its mandatory rules.

 

World Clinches Climate Deal, U.S. Isolated

Reuters News Service, July 23, 2001

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - Ministers from nearly 200 countries clinched a historic deal Monday that should force most rich industrial nations to curb the air pollution blamed for global warming, but left the United States isolated.

An all-night bargaining marathon in Bonn saw European Union ministers finally break a deadlock with Japan over how the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on cutting greenhouse gas emissions would work in practice, paving the way for the treaty to come into force.

Another failure, after the collapse of a summit at The Hague in November, could have killed it off for good following President Bush's withdrawal from the pact in March.

"It's a brilliant day for the environment," a weary but elated Michael Meacher, the British environment minister, told Reuters. "It's a huge leap to have achieved a result on this very complex international negotiation. It's a huge relief."

Environmentalists voiced some disappointment at what they called loopholes in the deal. Greenpeace dubbed it "Kyoto-Lite."

But they said any accord which made a start on curbing dangerous warming of the Earth's climate and the threat of rising sea levels due to melting ice was better than nothing.

Amid bleary smiles and multiple standing ovations for conference chairman Jan Pronk, the Dutch environment minister, there was irritation that Bush had rejected any deal in advance, saying Kyoto's mandatory emissions would hurt the U.S. economy.

"One country not playing the game is one too many," said the EU's chief negotiator, Belgian Energy Minister Olivier Deleuze.

U.S. STANDS BY REJECTION

Bush endorsed a general commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a weekend summit in Genoa of the Group of Eight (G8) industrial powers but insisted Kyoto was "fatally flawed."

That had left the EU's hopes of rallying a critical mass of the remaining industrial nations behind the pact dependent on getting Japan on board. Tokyo's reservations on technical issues and its desire to avoid leaving its U.S. ally isolated kept the result of the negotiations in doubt to the very last moment.

In the end, not one of the 180 or so states present voiced objections to the final compromise, not even the United States -- though Washington repeated that it will not ratify the pact.

Only the 30-odd most developed nations would, if they ratify the treaty, have to cut emissions and their support was the key factor in meeting criteria for the deal as a whole to survive.

Some delegates hailed a new, global diplomatic elan from the 15-nation EU, while others saw a triumph for United Nations "multilateralism" over the "unilateralism" of the United States and the riot-hit "rich man's club" of the G8 in Italy.

"It shows that George Bush is totally isolated in the climate debate," said Greenpeace climate activist Bill Hare.

Bush's representative in Bonn, Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky, told delegates: "Although the United States does not intend to ratify that agreement we have not tried to stop others from moving ahead as long as U.S. interests are not threatened."

Some observers in the hall heckled her remarks, in a rare interruption of the festive atmosphere.

In a conciliatory gesture, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said in Tokyo his government would "continue maximum efforts" toward "an agreement inclusive of the United States."

Canada, another U.S. ally on environmental issues which only belatedly swung behind Monday's deal, also said it hoped to see a promised new climate policy from Bush "converging" on Kyoto.

DOWN TO THE WIRE

Four years of negotiation had often pitched the EU, with its desire for tough targets on cutting emissions, against the likes of Japan, Canada and Russia who wanted more flexible mechanisms.

After the failure at The Hague, those disputes boiled down to four tense days in Bonn. When Pronk put forward a take-it-or-leave-it compromise deal, immediately backed by the EU, ministers began a 24-hour race to break Japanese-European deadlock on one key issue -- how punitively the targets would be enforced.

"We felt we could not fail twice," Pronk said. "Citizens, the electorate, people did expect us to reach a result."

As dawn came up over the Rhine and fears nagged that delay could wreck the entire process, the EU found room to give ground, dropping the word "legally" from descriptions of how binding the hitting of emissions targets would be on countries.

The ministers left haggling over the small print to civil servants spending the rest of the week in the former West German capital. EU officials insisted targets would still be binding.

Spontaneous applause rang out in the hotel conference room where fatigued ministers had bargained throughout the night.

"We have rescued the Kyoto protocol," said EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom. "We can go home and look our children in the eye and feel proud of what we have done."

Not to be outdone in superlatives, New Zealand delegate Peter Hodgson said: "We have delivered probably the most comprehensive and difficult agreement in human history."

Forested nations like Canada, Russia and Japan won concessions from the EU to be able to offset carbon-absorbing forests against targets for cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

Disappointed environmentalists say that means the cut is only about a third of the original goal of reducing industrial countries' greenhouse gas output to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. But it was better than nothing.

Said Jennifer Morgan of environment group WWF's climate change campaign: "This first small step is a giant leap for humanity and for the future of our planet."

(Additional reporting by Robin Pomeroy, Emma Thomasson and Alastair Macdonald)

 

 

Deal reached at climate talks

Reuters News Service, July 23, 2001

BONN, Germany -- A compromise deal to press forward with the Kyoto pact to cut greenhouse gases has been agreed.

The deal was struck after a week of meetings and more than 24 hours of continuous negotiations through into Monday morning in Bonn, Germany, a United Nations spokesman said.

During the last-ditch effort, delegates struggled with the issue of compliance -- or how to enforce an international treaty covering nearly 180 nations on greenhouse gases and how to impose penalties for violations.

The 1997 treaty aims to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels by 2012.

"We have finalised the rescue operation. We have rescued the Kyoto protocol. It is a major achievement because we live with this for many years to come," EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom told Reuters.

The deal leaves the U.S. -- the planet's biggest polluter -- as the only world power not to accept the Kyoto accord. President George W. Bush rejected Kyoto in March, saying it would harm the U.S. economy.

 

"Almost every single country stayed in the protocol," said Olivier Deleuze, the chief European Union negotiator. "There was one that said the Kyoto Protocol was flawed. Do you see the Kyoto Protocol flawed?"

The U.S. delegation, which participated in the talks, declined to comment on the deal.

An activist from environmental group Greenpeace, Bill Hare, told Reuters news agency: "It shows that George Bush is totally isolated in the climate debate."

"It is the long-awaited second step in the implementation of the Kyoto protocol. We are calling on Japan to ratify it now," he added.

Envoys admitted the deal fell short of tight rules they initially sought, The Associated Press news agency reported. "I prefer an imperfect agreement that is living to an imperfect agreement that doesn't exist," Deleuze said.

Hundreds of delegates waiting in the convention hall lobby hugged each other when the news came that the agreement was clinched.

The deal clears the way for nations to continue the process of ratifying the protocol, which delegates hope to achieve in 2002.

The treaty must be ratified by 55 nations responsible for 55 percent of global green gas emissions to take force. Some 30 nations have ratified the pact to date.

The European Union has been a major driving force in trying to get the Kyoto accord ratified and onto the statute books of parliaments across the globe.

But it was Japan that became the key player, with the power to make or break the treaty. "It's a brilliant day for the environment. It's a huge leap to have achieved a result on this very complex international negotiation," British Environment Minister Michael Meacher told Reuters news agency.

Conference chairman Jan Pronk had urged the environment ministers to continue talks when they reached a deadlock after a week of meetings. "This is a good text. It is a balanced text," Pronk said of his compromise proposal. "It is my conviction that it is possible to reach a full agreement."

Climate talks had already failed once when a conference last November in The Hague, Netherlands, collapsed in a last-minute dispute between the U.S. and the Europeans.