- The Washington Times - Friday, November 24, 2000

THE HAGUE Negotiators from 180 nations worked overnight to piece together an agreement on global warming with far-reaching consequences for the U.S. economy and environment.
Any agreement coming out of the U.N. negotiations here, which are slated to end today, could require Americans to cut their energy use and emissions by as much as one-third by 2012.
Negotiators are discussing rules to achieve reduction targets set by a 1997 treaty signed in Kyoto, Japan. In the next decade, global emissions of carbon dioxide must drop to 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels.
The treaty, a signature accomplishment of Vice President Al Gore, still faces a steep uphill fight for ratification in the U.S. Senate.
Entrenched differences have bedeviled negotiators for two weeks, prompting the Dutch host of the conference yesterday to float a compromise proposal on critical issues such as how to enforce the stiff emissions cuts, how much new aid to give developing countries and whether to include the emission-absorbing powers of forests in the agreement.
The compromise sketched by conference leader Jan Pronk of the Netherlands draws from a U.S. proposal introduced yesterday that calls on rich countries to provide another $1 billion in assistance each year through the World Bank's global environmental fund.
Third World countries could use the money to build energy projects and mitigate the impact of floods and droughts that are believed caused by global warming.
Many Third World delegates dismissed the U.S. aid plan as not enough, contending that nations in tropical regions are suffering unfairly from the rising temperatures created by the fuel-burning emissions of wealthy nations.
But China's delegate, Liu Jiang, made a rare plea for realism and pragmatism that echoed the views of the United States, which has urged the negotiators not to make it unduly hard for countries to comply with the treaty a scenario that could compromise economic growth.
"We have 34 million people in our country with no electricity. We must have choices," said Mr. Jiang, arguing that the treaty should enable rich countries to help poorer countries build power plants using emission-free nuclear and hydroelectric technologies.
Mr. Jiang noted that environmentalists and the European Union want to rule out nearly every alternative except small hydroelectric-, solar- and wind-power projects, which are not realistic ways to fulfill the fast-growing power needs of a country like China.
"We are closing down our small hydropower plants because of the high economic cost," he said.
The pleas for realism from the United States, China and a handful of other nations at the conference appeared to influence the Dutch compromise proposal, which calls on developed countries only to avoid nuclear projects in the developing world.
But the suggested compromise would put substantial restrictions on other options that the United States had hoped to use to comply with the treaty.
The proposal would require the United States to achieve its deep emissions cuts primarily through domestic measures, such as fuel taxes, caps on power plant emissions and higher fuel economy standards that would drive up the cost of gasoline, cars and electricity.
The proposal would give the United States credit for only about one-sixth of the emissions-absorbing ability of its vast forests and green spaces.
It appeared designed to answer to European complaints that the United States is trying to get away with doing nothing but cultivate its trees to comply with the treaty.
Trees and other vegetation naturally absorb carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas thought to cause global warming.
Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists said the proposed compromise takes the wrong approach on forests, ruling out measures that would encourage the preservation of valuable tropical rain forests while promoting undesirable activities like the creation of tree plantations by businesses that want to avoid emissions reductions.
"It needs a lot of work," said Eileen Clausen of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
She said delegates seem to be confused about the forest issue and it might be better to put off resolution of that question to a future negotiating session.
Business groups said the suggested compromise was too restrictive and unworkable.
"It's a Thanksgiving turkey that will be very costly for Americans," said Glenn Kelly, executive director of the Global Climate Coalition, which represents American businesses affected by the treaty.
"The treaty is supposed to facilitate the transfer of clean environmental technologies to the Third World, but the compromise would actually discourage that," he said.
The biggest flaw in the proposal, he said, is it fails to comply with the wishes of the U.S. Senate, which in 1997 unanimously called for developing countries to join in the treaty's emissions cuts.

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