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Delegates Approve Kyoto Rules

165 Nations Approve Kyoto Rules on Global Warming

The New York Times, Nov. 10, 2001
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) -- International delegates agreed on Saturday to the first-ever rules aimed at stopping global warming -- a pact the United States, the world's biggest polluter, has rejected.

Negotiators meeting in Marrakech, Morocco emerged from more than 19 hours of haggling behind closed doors early Saturday and said they had smoothed over differences in how to enforce the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which calls for cuts in carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" suspected in global warming.

"I'm tired, but it was worth it,'' Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson said.

All 165 participating countries approved the full set of rules later Saturday morning.

The Kyoto Protocol requires industrial countries to scale back emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by an average of 5 percent from their 1990 levels by 2012.

The United States, the world's biggest polluter, watched from the sidelines, having decided in March to abandon the treaty and draw up its own action plan.

Other countries said they still hoped to eventually win over the Americans.

"The big question now is how we bring the United States into the biggest international effort against the greenhouse effect,'' said Olivier Deleuze, Belgium's state secretary for the environment and head of the European delegation.

Delegates said the agreement opened the way for ratification by enough countries to bring the treaty into force, probably before a global environment summit next September. The summit will mark the 10th anniversary of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, when countries adopted the first voluntary measures aimed at stopping climate change.

The treaty needs ratification by 55 countries, including those that produced 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 1990. Without the United States, virtually every other industrial country would have to endorse the agreement to reach that goal.

Environmentalists welcomed the rules, even though they said the agreement was a watered-down version of what had been envisioned.

"It's a poor deal,"' said Bill Hare of the Greenpeace environmental group. "But that doesn't mean it's not worth having. It is a first step."

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Key Points in the Kyoto Agreement

MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) -- Delegates from 165 countries agreed Saturday to rules putting the 1997 Kyoto Protocol against global warming into action. Individual countries must now ratify the agreement. Here are key points:

· The protocol obliges industrialized countries to cut or limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other ``greenhouse gases'' by an average 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. These gases are believed to trap heat in the atmosphere, warming the Earth.

· Countries may offset the requirements by properly managing forests and farmlands that absorb carbon dioxide, known as carbon sinks. They can earn further credits by helping developing countries avoid carbon emissions.

· The agreement allows for emissions trading -- buying and selling the right to pollute.

· During Saturday's meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, countries agreed on the legal text that defines how countries implement the protocol and employ the trading and sinks mechanisms.

· Delegates agreed that signatory countries will face mandatory punishment if they fail to meet their emission targets.

· To take force, the accord must be ratified by 55 countries responsible for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. With the United States not participating, ratification by virtually all other industrial countries is essential to meet that target.

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On the last day of the two-week conference, negotiators had been stuck on five points related to mechanisms that countries might employ to ease the task of reducing emissions.

Canada, Russia, Japan and Australia rejected a paper submitted Thursday night on how countries could trade pollution "credits," holding out against nearly all the other 161 countries attending the conference.

The deadlock was finally broken with a four-point compromise paper.

"With the addition of this paper, the package is satisfactory. I am very pleased," said Canada's Anderson.

The mechanisms are designed to help countries meet their targets by buying or selling credits on an international financial market, or by reducing their quota by expanding forests and farmland that soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The U.S. position weighed heavily on the meeting. At the previous conference in Germany last July, all other countries decided to press ahead despite the U.S. withdrawal. But some said the absence of the United States made it virtually worthless.

A U.S. delegation was in Marrakech and attended even the difficult negotiations during the last hours of the conference. But the delegates refrained from participating in talks on the treaty itself, participants said.

On Saturday, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi -- who had months earlier shown some reluctance to go ahead with the agreement without Washington's cooperation -- said he was pleased by the agreement.

"In order to ensure effectiveness of the measures against global warming, it is important that all countries act under one single rule, and Japan will continue its maximum efforts in this regard," Koizumi said.

Scientists say glaciers are already melting and rain patterns are shifting because of global warming. Over the next century, temperatures could increase by as much as 10 degrees, possibly raising sea levels and causing more intense storms and droughts.

FACTBOX - What was agreed in Marrakesh?

Planet Ark News, Nov. 12, 2001


MARRAKESH, Morocco - Environment and energy ministers from around the world agreed on the weekend on the rules governing the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.


The accord, reached after tough bargaining at a two-week U.N.-sponsored conference in Morocco, provides a detailed rulebook governing the complex 1997 treaty aimed at limiting humanity's negative impact on the Earth's climate.

WHAT WAS AGREED IN MARRAKESH?

The rules cover issues such as what penalties countries that fail to reach their targets will face, how they can buy and sell the right to emit greenhouse gases, and to what extent countries must report on the amount of emissions they produce each year.

Supporters of the pact say this provides the detailed legal basis for countries to ratify it and bring it into force.

BUT WASN'T ALL THIS AGREED IN THE SUMMER?

The main points of the rulebook were agreed at a similar meeting in Bonn, Germany, in July. But that was a relatively brief political agreement.

WHY DID IT TAKE TWO WEEKS TO REACH THE MARRAKESH DEAL?

Translating the Bonn agreement into legal text opened up long-standing differences between countries and what was meant to be a purely administrative exercise turned political.

WAS THE TREATY GIVEN LEGALLY BINDING SANCTIONS?

The Bonn agreement set out the sanctions a country would face if it failed to meet its emissions targets - that country would have to make up the shortfall at a penalty rate of 130 percent, provide an action plan showing how it intended to cut emissions and would be barred from emissions trading. Wrangling at Marrakesh centred on whether this would be legally binding. Japan and Russia resisted moves to make it so.

A compromise wording was found which postponed a formal decision on the exact legal nature of compliance, but stated that countries must accept the agreed compliance rules if they want to take part in emissions trading.

WHAT ABOUT THE ISSUE OF "SINKS"?

Carbon sinks - trees and agricultural land that can store carbon which might otherwise be emitted into the air - have caused major upsets at all recent climate negotiations.

Despite initial opposition by the EU, the deal gives countries the right to discount some of their emissions target by counting the carbon stored in managed forests and farmlands.

Each country is given a maximum amount of emissions it could count in its "carbon sinks". The main beneficiaries are Canada, Japan and Russia.

Marrakesh also sets the rules making countries define and annually report on their sinks activities.

DOES THIS MEAN THE KYOTO PROTOCOL IS NOW UP AND RUNNING?

Kyoto will only come into legal force when it is ratified by the governments of at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of 1990 CO2 emissions. The EU has said it will do so next year. Without the United States - which pulled out of Kyoto in March - it is critical that Russia and Japan ratify to make up the numbers. If they do not, Kyoto will collapse.

Deals Break Impasse on Global Warming Treaty

The New York Times, Nov. 11, 2001

After four grinding years of negotiations, the final details of a pioneering treaty aimed at fighting global warming emerged from talks in Morocco yesterday, and many large industrial countries, excepting the United States, said they were likely to ratify the agreement.

If enacted, and significant hurdles still must be crossed for that to happen, the treaty, called the Kyoto Protocol, would set the first binding restrictions on releases of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases by industrial countries.

President Bush rejected the treaty in March, limiting its reach by putting the United States, the largest source of such gases, on the sidelines. At the time, the decision caused some other countries, most notably Japan, Canada, Russia and Australia, to hesitate.

But after two weeks of discussions in Marrakesh among this group, along with developing countries and the European Union, the treaty's strongest proponent, agreement was reached on a set of compromises.

"The Kyoto Protocol is saved," Olivier DeLeuze, head of the delegation from the European Union, said after the deal was announced.

Negotiations were far tougher than those producing every other past international environmental treaty, officials of many governments said, because cuts in these emissions will come mainly from restricting the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels, the underpinning of industrial economies.

The industrial countries that sign on will be required, as a group, to cut emissions by 2012 to levels about 5 percent below emissions levels in 1990. That shared target will be easier to achieve, in part, because Russia and some other countries, after the collapse of Communism, saw emissions drop far below 1990 levels.

As happens to most international agreements, the treaty lost some of its initial vision over years of negotiation between blocs of countries that would be affected differently by its terms. For example, Russia, Canada and Japan sought and gained substantial credit toward their gas targets for the ability of their forests to absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

In telephone interviews yesterday, American officials at the meeting gave no sign that the Bush administration would reconsider joining the effort. "Other countries have chosen their path, and our answer is still no," said a senior member of the American delegation.

Some of Mr. Bush's critics in the Senate, most notably James M. Jeffords of Vermont, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, criticized the administration's lack of an alternative to the treaty. He said that Washington "refuses to take responsibility for its share of the problem."

Most climate scientists say that a buildup of greenhouse gases has caused at least part of the world's warming trend that could lead to droughts, floods and agricultural disruption.

Mr. Bush has said that the Kyoto pact could harm the American economy and was unfair because developing countries like China and India were excused from any obligations to make emissions cuts.

In a statement delivered at the closing ceremonies, Paula J. Dobriansky, the under secretary of state for global affairs, said the Bush administration was still committed to solving the problem, but in its own way and at its own pace. "Climate change is a serious issue that requires real action," she said.

Nonetheless, the completion of the treaty — even without the United States and with various compromises — still represented an important moment in industrial history, environment experts said.

After a century of growing use of fossil fuels with little regard for the impacts of a steady buildup of greenhouse gases, many experts said, this is the first global mechanism for limiting such environmental harm.

"It's by far the strongest environmental treaty that's ever been drafted, from the beginning to the end, from the soup of measuring emissions to the nuts of the compliance regime," said David D. Doniger, the director of climate programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private environmental group.

"The parties have reached complete agreement on what's an infraction, how you decide a case and what are the penalties," said Mr. Doniger, who attended the meeting. "That's as good as it gets in international relations."

Another innovation in the treaty is its unfettered trading mechanism for greenhouse-gas emissions. Until last summer, the European Union, driven by strong public sentiment, had staunchly opposed allowing a country to get credit towards its emissions targets by investing in cheaper pollution cleanup projects overseas.

But under pressure from Japan, Canada and Russia, that opposition faded in Marrakesh, negotiators said. The goal of such trading is to foster international markets for energy-efficient technologies, treaty supporters said.

"The Marrakesh results send a clear signal to business, local governments and the general public that climate-friendly products, services and activities will be rewarded," said Michael Zammit-Cutajar, a United Nations official.

To gain legal force, the treaty must be ratified by at least 55 countries, including a group responsible for at least 55 percent of the heat- trapping emissions from industrial countries in 1990. With the United States out, that threshold can be achieved only with the support of both Japan and Russia.

Russia gave strong signals yesterday that it was satisfied. In a statement made before the meeting closed, Aleksandr I. Bedritsky, the lead negotiator from Russia, said the agreement "opens the path for the ratification by all countries, including the Russian Federation."

Representatives of Japan, where industries are fighting the pact, were more circumspect. That hesitation is natural because Japan — under the arithmetic of the treaty — will have to make significant cuts in emissions domestically to reach its target, said Dr. Richard L. Schmalensee, dean of the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Europe is in a better position to meet its targets because it benefits from the large cuts in emissions that already occurred in Britain and Germany for economic, not environmental, reasons. The Europeans took credit in Marrakesh for leading on the issue.

Many officials at the meeting said that Mr. Bush, who is dedicated to building and maintaining an alliance against terrorism, was missing an opportunity to seek an international approach to the environment.

Dr. Schmalensee said the main benefit of the treaty was not the modest cuts in emissions it set, but the mechanisms and institutions it would create. "It'll build some engagement and the habit of compliance," he said. "This is a first step."