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Global Climate Change DigestArchives of the
Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999

FROM VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1-2, JANUARY-FEBRUARY 1998

NEWS...
KYOTO FOLLOWUP


Item #d98feb88

The sources cited here give details and analyses of the Kyoto treaty agreement. (Background material and a synopsis of the agreement were given in Global Climate Change Digest last month (Dec. 1997.) According to New Scientist (Dec. 20-27, p. 10), a deadlock was broken at the last minute when the U.S. made a behind-the-scenes deal with Russia to buy some of its pollution rights. This reflects the "bubble" approach allowed in the treaty, whereby individual countries may combine with others to jointly reach their emission goals. Prior to the conference, only the countries of the European Union had taken this approach.

Although some observers have hailed the deal as a diplomatic miracle, the agreement is not expected to significantly slow the accumulation of greenhouse gases. (See "Thirty Kyotos Needed to Control Warming," Science, p. 2048, Dec. 19; also Nature, pp. 649-650, Dec. 18-25.) To many, its main value lies in focusing attention on approaches to reducing emissions and in establishing a framework for further commitments. (Periodic reviews are built into the Protocol; the first is not likely to occur for at least five years.) The Nature article also outlines what is now needed from scientists to implement the treaty—methods for measuring and verifying greenhouse gas emissions, and a mechanism for trading emissions allocations among countries. The latter is fraught with scientific and practical pitfalls. (See New Scientist, pp. 3 and 7, Dec. 13.)

The Kyoto Protocol will be open for signing for one year beginning March 16, 1998, and will take effect 90 days after at least 55 Parties have ratified it. Other requirements for activation imply that the U.S. in combination with one or two other large emitters (such as Russia or Japan) could scuttle the Protocol if they do not ratify it.

The Clinton Administration continues its campaign for domestic support of the Protocol, and recently pledged not to submit it to Congress for ratification unless developing nations also participate (Intl. Environ. Rptr., p. 6, Jan. 7, 1998). Such participation is not currently part of the agreement, but will probably be required by Congress for ratification, and the Administration will seek it in future international conferences. In his State of the Union Address, President Clinton announced $6.3 million in tax credits and spending in the new budget for global warming measures. A Harris Poll taken immediately after Kyoto showed that three out of four Americans who are familiar with the agreement support it.

For general accounts of the Kyoto meeting see Intl. Environ. Rptr., pp. 1107-1108, Dec. 10; Nature, p. 429, Dec. 4; Science News, p. 388, Dec. 20-27; New Scientist, p. 6, Dec. 13; Time, pp. 22-27, Dec. 22; Global Environ. Change Rep., pp. 1-3, Dec. 12. The entire Dec. 24 issue of Global Environ. Change Rep. consists of a thorough analysis of the Protocol; other analyses appear in U.S. News & World Rep., Dec. 15, and Intl. Environ. Rptr., pp. 131-135, Feb. 4. The final text appears on pp. 33-41 of Intl. Environ. Rptr. (Jan. 7), and is available on the official U.N. Web site (http://www.unfccc.de/). A commentary on unfairness in the Kyoto commitments appears in New Scientist, p. 48, Jan. 17. See Global Change Electronic Edition (http://www.globalchange.org/infoall/kyoto1.htm) for other printed and electronic resources related to Kyoto.

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