to finish Kyoto pact
nations to outline rules despite U.S. veto
By Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times
With the United States in attendance but sitting on the sidelines, more
than 150 countries begin 12 days of talks in Morocco today aimed at
completing the rules for the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty requiring cuts in
gases linked to global warming.
The goal of many of the countries at the meeting, in Marrakesh, is to
achieve enough consensus on details that the treaty can be ratified and
enacted next year, the 10th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit, where a
previous, but voluntary, climate treaty was forged.
After that nonbinding agreement failed to achieve reductions in the gas
emissions, countries began the protracted talks leading to the binding
commitments outlined in the Kyoto Accord in 1997.
But proponents of enacting the treaty are hampered by two things:
persistent disagreements over how to measure gas reductions and levy
penalties when a target is missed, and the rejection of the treaty by
President Bush in March.
Several countries, most notably Japan, have said it would be difficult
to ratify the agreement if the United States, the largest producer of
heat-trapping greenhouse gases, did not join in.
Japan plays a pivotal role. Under the complex arithmetic of the treaty,
it takes effect only when it is ratified by countries accounting for 55
percent of gas that industrial countries emitted in 1990. Without the
United States, almost any combination of nations can reach that plateau
only if Japan goes along.
Public opinion in Japan is strongly in favor of the Kyoto treaty. But
industries there have intensively lobbied against it, Japanese officials
said, in part because they fear that they would incur costs not shared
by U.S. industries if the pollution rules took effect.
"Our government thinks that it is extremely important to have one
international rule and that every country should act," a senior Japanese
environmental official said. "Participation by the U.S.A. is very, very
Japanese officials have met three times with the Bush administration
since mid-September to discuss climate change, but not ways to make the
treaty acceptable to the United States, officials from other governments
Bush and many senators hae said the accord would harm the economy and
unfairly require only the industrial nations to cut emissions, while
fast-growing developing countries like China face no such
Administration officials said Friday that they were attending the
meeting only to prevent measures from being adopted that might saddle
the United Sates with indirect costs or create harmful
They said that Bush's rejection of the treaty was final, but that the
administration still planned to pursue other approaches to the
"Our position is that climate change is an important issue and one which
President Bush has stated we're seriously committed to addressing,"
Paula J. Dobriansky, the undersecretary of state for global affairs,
There are plenty of other obstacles to enactment of the treaty, with or
without the United States.
The bargaining has come down to the wire, in the same way that
negotiations between a home buyer and seller reach the point of debating
who keeps the washing machine and who pays for repairing the
But in this case, there are dozens of parties affected, not just wo.
And each faces a different set of consequences should the treaty take
Disagreements over details of the treaty were whittled down
significantly at the last bargaining session, held in Bonn in July. But
last week, news reports from Europe make it clear that substantial
differences still exist.
Germany, with a government influenced by a strong Green Party, has said
no new credit should be granted to countries with vast forests for the
role trees play in absorbing carbon dioxide released by smokestacks and
exhaust pipes. Russia, in contrast, has pressed for more such
Some countries were still hoping that the United States would rejoin the
But experts involved in the negotiations said the attacks on September
11, by greatly increasing the popularity of Bush, lessened the
likelihood that there would be a shift in the U.S. position any time
Andrew C. Revkin
The New York Times October 29, 2001.
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