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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
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Item #d92jun97

The United States prevailed during the final negotiation session for a framework climate convention held in New York City. Adopted May 9, 1992, the final text commits nations to carrying out programs to reduce the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, but avoids timetables and specific targets for emission reductions. Returning to 1990 levels of emissions is mentioned only as a general aim of such programs (for the developed countries). Nations are committed to periodically reporting detailed information on policies and measures to reduce emissions, and projections of emissions. The first reports would be due within six months of the commencement of the convention, which could occur this year if formal acceptance by at least 50 countries comes soon.

The draft treaty, to be presented at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in early June, is being viewed as a foundation for future agreements or protocols. It sets up a mechanism for periodically assessing the danger of climate change based on recent information, and taking further action if necessary. The first meeting would be in 1994 if the treaty is rapidly accepted.

Funding to help developing countries comply with the treaty and establish emission programs remains a thorny and unsettled issue. The current draft designates the Global Environment Facility, run by the World Bank, as an interim agent for funding, but many developing countries want a different mechanism. At a meeting on May 1, representatives of developing and industrialized countries agreed to modify the fund so that all countries would be eligible to join and would have a say in its governance (Intl. Environ. Rptr., p. 256, May 6, 1992).

Some observers and participants of the negotiations consider a treaty without specific commitments nearly worthless. But others view the agreement far preferable to none because it makes possible the involvement of a large group of countries, recognizes that greenhouse gases are a potential threat that warrants action, and provides a basis for further agreements.

For general accounts and interpretation of the treaty agreement see Intl. Environ. Rptr., pp. 284-286, May 20, 1992 (issue includes full text of treaty); Nature, pp. 97-98, May 14; New Scientist, p. 5, May 16, and p. 6, May 9; Sci. News, p. 326, May 16; Global Environ. Change Rep., pp. 1-3, May 22.

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