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November 19, 2001
Volume 79, Number 47
CENEAR 79 47 p. 11
ISSN 0009-2347
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Negotiators draft binding rules, agree on consequences for noncompliance


Early in the morning on Nov. 10, delegates from 171 industrialized and developing countries meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, agreed on rules for implementing the Kyoto protocol on climate change. This agreement ends four years of difficult negotiations, conducted under the auspices of the United Nations, and paves the way toward ratification of the protocol by its signatory nations.

POSITIVE SPIN Agreement is a sign, says Zammit-Cutajar, "that climate-friendly products, services, and activities will be rewarded by consumers and national policies alike."
The U.S. is unlikely to be among those nations. It rejected the pact last March, saying the protocol would harm the U.S. economy and is unfair because it does not yet include binding targets for developing countries. Consequently, the U.S., which is estimated to emit about one-quarter of the world's greenhouse gases, acted only as an observer at the meeting. In her concluding remarks at the meeting, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula J. Dobriansky reiterated the U.S. view that the Kyoto protocol "is not sound policy" and "is just not workable for the U.S."

The Kyoto protocol enters into force after ratification by at least 55 parties to the convention representing at least 55% of the total 1990 CO2 emissions from industrialized countries. So far, 40 countries have ratified the pact, but only two developed nations--Romania and the Czech Republic--have done so.

Because Japan was responsible for 8% of the 1990 CO2 emissions and the U.S. was responsible for 36%, there is little chance the treaty can enter into force without Japan. However, if Japan ratifies the pact, it will have a hard time meeting its target--an emissions cut of 6% from the 1990 level--since its emissions have risen 17% since 1990.

Once it does enter into force, the treaty will establish the first binding restrictions on national greenhouse gas emissions. It requires industrialized countries that ratify the agreement to reduce emissions an average of 5% below 1990 levels by 2012--the first step toward addressing the overall problem of climate change.

The finalized Kyoto rule book specifies how to measure emissions and reductions, the extent to which CO2 absorbed by carbon sinks--forests and farmland--can be counted toward the Kyoto targets, how the joint implementation and emissions trading systems will work, and the rules for ensuring compliance.

The delegates agreed that countries that fail to meet their targets during the first commitment period (2008–12) must make up the shortfall plus 30% during the next commitment period, probably 2013–17.

"The Marrakech 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, the executive secretary of the UN global climate convention.

"The agreement reached in Marrakech is a critical and commendable step forward in the international effort against climate change," says Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, which is affiliated with 37 leading international corporations. "As other nations move to fulfill their Kyoto commitments, it is imperative that the U.S. also commit itself to a binding strategy that produces genuine emissions reductions."

However, the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), which represents a number of companies in the fossil fuel and chemical industries, believes the accord will accomplish little. "From what we see so far, once again the parties have done nothing to address fundamental concerns expressed by the U.S. for years," says Glenn F. Kelly, GCC executive director.

On the final day of negotiations, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration reported that, last year, U.S. CO2 emissions grew by 3.1%, the second highest growth rate for the decade. And last month, the leaders of Tuvalu, a tiny island country midway between Hawaii and Australia, said that its 11,000 inhabitants would have to move because of sea-level rise--one of the predicted outcomes of global warming.

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