UN Resolves Some Climate Change Issues
At the annual meeting of parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, concluded in Milan, Italy, on Dec. 12, negotiators reached agreement on several issues.
One agreement was on how countries can earn greenhouse gas emissions credits under the Kyoto protocol through forest projects. Despite opposition from the European Union, the agreement will allow countries to get credits for planting genetically modified trees to absorb carbon dioxide.
In another agreement, the EU, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland renewed a pledge to contribute $410 million annually to help developing countries with technology transfer projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Thomas Loster, an expert on weather and climate risk at the reinsurance company Munich Re, spoke on the costs of climate change. He noted, for example, that monetary damages from extreme weather events are escalating--amounting to more than $20 billion in 2003 alone.
Harlan L. Watson, U.S. chief climate negotiator at this meeting, told the conference that U.S. state and local governments are acting "as laboratories where new and creative ideas and methods" are being developed to address climate change. But some state governors have noted that states are taking action only because the federal government will not.
At the meeting, Russia refused to signal whether it will ratify the Kyoto protocol. Without Russian ratification, the accord cannot go into force.