- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2001

BONN The international climate agreement hammered out over the past three days to save the 1997 Kyoto Protocol will curb emissions of the greenhouse gases thought to cause global warming only slightly and may even permit increases, according to scientists and analysts.
Environmental groups supported the deal, keenly aware that the Bonn talks on finalizing the global-warming treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 were their last chance. But many activists complained that the pact now bears only faint resemblance to the one negotiated in Japan.
Countries will be able to emit more earth-warming gases than permitted under Kyoto because the Bonn agreement gives them credit for having "sinks" forests that soak up carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas.
"The protocol has been heavily diluted," said Friends of the Earth organizer Kate Hampton. "Its effect on the climate has been massively eroded."
Opponents of the treaty castigated environmentalists for trying to resuscitate the treaty only to complain later.
"[Kyoto] always had the use of sinks built into it," said Chris Horner, counsel to the Cooler Heads Coalition, a network of anti-Kyoto groups in Washington. "If there are less reductions, the environmentalists have no one but themselves to blame."
President Bush, deeming the treaty "fatally flawed," announced in May that the United States would not ratify what he considered the economically harmful Kyoto Protocol, which the Clinton administration negotiated. But other countries moved ahead with the treaty.
Moderate green groups praised the political decision in Bonn to treat global warming as a serious issue, rather than one that can be safely ignored.
"The psychological effect is much, much bigger than the ecological effect," said Stephan Singer with the Worldwide Fund for Nature.
David Doniger, director of the Climate Change Center at the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council, argued that Kyoto is now a politically sustainable treaty. As proof, he highlighted the agreement's provisions that will create business-friendly mechanisms, such as systems to trade carbon-dioxide emission credits.
"The deal embodies what neoconservative economic analysts have wanted for years," he said. "It's a performance and market-based agreement."
The Kyoto Protocol calls for a 5.2 percent reduction in greenhouse gases, principally from carbon dioxide, from 1990 levels by 2012.
These gases trap the sun's heat, causing long-term warming that results in extreme weather swings, scientists say.
But Kyoto, to environmentalists' dismay five years ago, also signed onto the notion that countries could emit additional pollutants on the basis of their forests, which naturally absorb carbon dioxide.
In Bonn, however, recalibrating the size of countries' sinks was a political instrument for securing the consent of key countries, environmentalists said.
For example, Japan, whose participation was crucial to the treaty, won the right to emit 13 million tons of carbon per year, a number close to its own proposal.
"In the end, it was political negotiation as to who got what," said Jennifer Morgan, an official with the World Wildlife Fund.
As a result of the Bonn deal, Kyoto now will bring a 1.8 percent reduction of greenhouse gases, slightly over one-third of the 5.2 percent target, according to the group.
Greenpeace, a hard-liner in the environmental movement, fumed that the new "watered-down version" of Kyoto "excluding the United States" would allow greenhouse gas emissions to actually rise over the next decade by 2.5 percent over 1990 levels.
If the United States ever joined the treaty, it also gained recognition for its own forests, further diluting the protocol's effect, environmentalists pointed out.
Senate Democrats sharply criticized the Bush administration yesterday for walking away from the treaty.
"I'm very disappointed with what has happened on Kyoto," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, adding that he had feared U.S. isolation on the issue. "That's exactly what happened."
The treaty's rules on enforcement also could result in higher emissions. Under a last-minute compromise in Bonn, countries that overshoot their Kyoto targets must reduce emissions by an additional 30 percent. But they must make amends in 2012, so countries could reach the end of the Kyoto timeline without having actually curbed carbon-dioxide output.
"You can't write a treaty with iron guarantees of a certain outcome," Mr. Horner said.
Mr. Doniger countered that with an international trading system in place for carbon dioxide, countries would have a strong financial incentive not to exceed their limits.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide